My first class is English. I take a seat at a table at the back, too flustered to realize that Gretchen is sitting right in front of me. She turns halfway around in her seat.
"Hi, Scarlett, you okay?" She sounds friendly, but I know it's all an act. Gretchen was one of the first girls to try to become "new best friends" with me when Mom's blog got popular. Back then, I'd thought it was cool that so many people wanted to be my NBF. But then I overheard Gretchen and Alison whispering together. Gretchen was saying how she wished her mom would write a blog about her, that it would be, like, 'so' much more interesting than my mom's blog because she was running for student PTA representative, while I was the "most boring girl in the world." I'd cleared my throat so she'd known I was there. "Oh! Hi, Scarlett!" She'd recovered like the PTA princess she was. "How was your weekend?"
"Fine," I'd said then, but now I just shrug and say nothing. I don't ask how she is, because (a) I don't care, and (b) I don't want to hear about the student council, her new lavender bedroom furniture, her horseback-riding lessons, or any of the other things that Gretchen does because there's no one broadcasting her boring news to the world.
Alison doesn't even bother to be friendly. She ignores me, digging in her bag for her lip gloss. Alison's beautiful—tall and blond with perfect skin and big, green eyes—and what's more, she knows it. If she were Mom's daughter, there would be no boring news to broadcast. If I were Alison, I wouldn't have the time of day for people like me either.
Our English teacher, Ms. Carver, comes into the room and starts writing on the whiteboard. The bell rings, and at that moment someone runs past me up the aisle to an empty seat at the front of the room. It's Nick Farr, the cutest boy in the whole world. All the girls in my class think so.
"Nice of you to join us, Mr. Farr," Ms. Carver says, raising her eyebrows.
"My pleasure," Nick replies. He turns around in his seat and smirks at Alison. My insides droop like a wilting flower. Not that I want a boyfriend yet or anything, but never in a million years will boys like Nick notice that I even exist. And under the circumstances, that's probably a good thing. I'd die if anyone found out I liked him and it ended up in Mom's blog. Because that's another thing I have to thank Gretchen for.
I ignored the "most boring girl in the world" thing, and for a while, tried to make her like me. I worked on her PTA rep campaign, joined a few of the clubs she was in, helped her with her English homework, and tried really hard to be her friend.
But around then, Mom started blogging about more personal stuff, like that I bought a deodorant with my allowance, that I still sleep with my old teddy bear, and that I was "trying to get in with the popular crowd." Things I'd never told Mom because I'd stopped talking to her by then. Someone was leaking stuff. I had my suspicions, so I told Gretchen some made-up things—just stupid stuff about wanting to dye my hair pink and get my nose pierced. Some of it showed up in Mom's blog. I was mortified—but not very surprised. I confronted Mom, but she managed to twist things around.
She said that one of my friends was worried about me, and if I ever needed to talk she was there to listen& blah, blah, blah (and that maybe when I turned fourteen next year I could get my ears pierced). Whatever. So, that's when I quit all the clubs and activities, and stopped hanging out with Gretchen and Alison. I mean, why bother?
Ms. Carver begins class. My mind churns with thoughts about Mom and how I wish I could start a new life in a new town where no one knows me. Then maybe I could go back to being like I was before—a fun girl with lots of friends, eager to try new things, and laugh at myself when I made mistakes. Was I really that girl only a little over two years ago? I can barely remember a time when I didn't have this gnawing shame in the pit of my stomach.
I'm staring straight ahead at the clock on the wall when I'm jarred back to reality by something Ms. Carver is saying: "It's never too early to start getting involved because it takes a lot more than good grades to get into a top college." I swallow hard. Of course—my teachers read it too.
Just then, the door to the classroom opens. Mrs. Franklin, the principal, walks in, followed by a girl I haven't seen before. There's something about her that makes me look twice. For one thing, she's really pretty—with black, shiny hair, a roundish face, and bow-shaped lips that seem to naturally curve into a smile. But more than that, she looks like she might be nice. She glances at me for a second and our eyes meet.
"Sorry to interrupt," Mrs. Franklin says to our class. "This is Violet Sanders. She's new today, and she'll be joining you."
The principal gestures to the one empty seat—two away from mine—and the girl sits down. She takes out a notebook and pencil from her bag, biting her lip like she's a little nervous.
"Fine. Welcome, Violet." Ms. Carver shuffles her papers and goes back to the lesson.