A/N: Hey guys! Okay, so I know you guys are like, what the hell? Where have you been? So I'm sorry. I'll try to get on "Of All the Luck" ASAP. Real life got in the way, as always. So anyway, this is plot-bunny took root in my mind and I had to write it. YES, THIS IS THE SAME NATALIE WRIGHT AS IN "OF ALL THE LUCK". Do you need to read those 3 chapters to know what's going on? No. Not really. But feel free. So, give this one a spin if it pleases you, and drop me a line to let me know what you think. Good? Bad? Neither? Let me know! I hope you like Natalie :)
Can anybody find me somebody to love?"
—"Somebody to Love", Queen
I was kind of at a loss for what to do with my current dilemma. I may have been in denial about whether it was or was not a dilemma for a while (count: four months) but no it seems unavoidable. I've been deliberating over my possible course of action for what seems like an age or two. Well, at least two weeks, and so far I've just begun to acknowledge that, yes, this might actually be considered a legitimate problem and, yes, you should take a course of action.
After that? I have nothing.
It all comes down to this: the minute I walk into the cafeteria/gym/auditorium room for lunch, it will be the twenty-second consecutive school day that I have had to sit alone for lunch.
Okay, technically not alone, because I had geek-loser Henry Hobber and nerd-genius-robot Rory Connweller at my table, but they are not good for conversation. Rory operates on a completely different level than most humans and most of your actual meaning goes right through her because she takes everything literally. And, of course, Henry Hobber is just the creepy sort of loser. Not even the smart kind.
But sitting at the dork table by the trash cans with Henry and Rory hasn't always been so dreadful. In fact, lunch used to be something I could look forward to. Of course, that was back when the loser table had one extra occupant.
Kim Connweller, my best friend (and Rory's sister, coincidentally, but that's not important).
Kim and I started being friends in kindergarten, probably because we were both losers. Me, the youngest and only girl in a brood of six children, and her, the only average child in a family of exceptional talent. I repelled people with my chronic nosebleeds and constant injuries, and she made people uncomfortable with her silence and social awkwardness.
You might say that we had a perfect friendship.
(You'd be right, of course.)
So, basically it just us. Kinetic Kim and Natalie the Nightmare vs. the World! (Okay, lamest superhero names ever, I know, so piss off.) against the world. I protected her from her bitch sister Laura and her evil mother (who might just be Satan incarnate), and she always made sure I had my Epi-Pen with me at all times.
Of course, there was one thing that I couldn't protect Kim from. Something that was almost as old as our friendship.
And that thing is named Jared Cameron.
Sounds like a normal name, right? Well, it is, because Jared's a pretty normal guy. He's not that smart but he's not dumb, either, and he's nice enough, I guess. A normal guy.
The problem was that Kim—for reasons no one on earth has ever been able to fathom— thought Jared was just about the greatest fucking thing to ever grace the earth.
(which, for the record, he's totally fucking not. He's just a random guy.)
I don't know exactly what Jared did to deserve Kim's everlasting affection (okay, total fucking lie, she's told me that stupid story about a million times, like him helping her off the ground was some fairy tale act of chivalry and undying love instead of just a fucking act of common courtesy). But the point is that the Jared Obsession never went away, unlike all little girl crushes are supposed to. If anything, it just got worse with time.
You might be wondering what could possibly be the harm in letting Kim live out her little Jared fantasy. Like, why would I have to protect her from that? It's just a harmless little crush.
Well, let me tell you, naysayer: it was not fucking little, and it was not 'harmless'.
The Jared Obsession was kind of Kim's way of escape. Her home life was never great, considering the fact that her family was apparently perfect and she was the lone smudge on her mother's perfect fucking record. I guess Kim liked the idea of a fantasy world where someone nice and sweet and good-looking like Jared Cameron thought mousy, average-looking Kim Connweller was perfect just the way she was. I can't really blame her for that, not really, because I more than anyone knew how badly Kim took the things her mom said. So don't degrade Kim and her pain by calling it 'little'. It was probably the best part of her day to see Jared in class.
That being said, the Jared Obsession was most certainly unhealthy. Of course, Kim never deluded herself thinking that he actually loved her or something. But it was still awful, the way she'd get her hopes up and then see him kissing a girl admittedly prettier than her. And who was the only one around who cared enough to pick up the pieces?
That's right. Me.
The Jared Obsession was like when you think picking a scab will make you feel better and it does for like five minutes except then you're bleeding again and it heals with a scar. Weird analogy, but true. And in the end, it hurt Kim more than she'd been in the first place, because no matter how hard she fell for him, he didn't know she existed.
Cliché, right? Wrong.
He actually didn't know who she was. There are barely thirty people in our class. And yet he had no idea who she was. It was like he was her favorite person in the whole world, and to him, she was too insignificant to even blip on his radar at all.
As someone who loves Kim, can you blame me for hating him a little for that?
So, like any good friend, I tried to discourage the Jared Obsession. It would have been easier if the only guy who'd ever shown interest in Kim is Henry Hobber, who to be honest would sleep with a plant if it'd have him.
But for the first few months of our sophomore year, everything was normal. Kim's mom was a total bitch (nothing new), my mom was a overprotective mess of anxiety (I'm her baby, and the only girl, and I happen to be a very worrying child health-wise, so I can't blame her), both of our dads were absent (Kim's left when she was a baby, mine is away on business almost constantly), we sat at the dork table with Rory and Henry, and Jared Cameron didn't know Kim was even alive.
Ah. The sweet life.
Well, it was, until weird stuff started happening. The worst thing was that it'd happened before, a year or so ago. What happened around a year or so ago in the early part of our freshman year was really weird and kind of scary, to be honest, and hot gossip for months.
The Cliff-Notes version: Sam Uley, who had everything (top of the class, hottest girlfriend, college scholarship) just disappeared. Like, without a trace. His girlfriend, Leah Clearwater (practically Rez Royalty), was frantic. And then he turned up in the woods, about a foot taller, on steroids, and Rez-bound for life, apparently. The Elders suddenly thought that he was the greatest thing ever (even more than before) and suddenly it was okay for him to skip out on college (to Cal Berkeley, no less), when the same year they flipped biscuits over Rebecca Black getting married in Hawaii instead of going to college like she'd planned. Leah was frightened and worried and more than a little pissed—but, you know, mostly thanking the lord Jesus her fiancé wasn't lying in a ditch somewhere. But she'd been so frantic that she'd called her cousin, Emily, down from the Makah reservation for moral support. What happened after is a little fuzzy for everyone, although there is much speculation and some pretty wack theories.
Basically: Sam loves Leah; Sam sees Emily; Sam dumps Leah for Emily; Emily says no; Sam stalks her; Emily gets attacked by a bear; Emily=scarred for life; Sam+Emily=forever.
It ended with him leaving Leah Clearwater, hands down the prettiest girl on the Rez, for her cousin and best friend Emily. Yeah. Pretty weird.
I only know as much as I do because Kim's sister Laura, however bitchy, is also Leah Clearwater's devoted best friend. (I actually think Laura always kind of knew Emily ranked first in terms of Leah's best friend, so she may have been a little harsh.)
Okay, so maybe this was a little longer than the general Cliff Note, but whatever. It happened, and nobody could fucking shut up about it for ages. Everyone was all, poor Leah, Emily is evil!, and Sam is such a deadbeat!
…I may have been one of them.
But eventually everyone gave it up when Amy Miller got pregnant by her stepdad (gross), but Sam and Emily have pretty much laid low ever since. He was still branded the cheating bastard that broke Leah Clearwater's heart, and she was still the backstabbing homewrecker that stole him away, and no one really made any moves to let them forget it.
(As far as Leah goes, I'm pretty sure she was just trying to get out of the Rez and away from that whole can of beans as soon as she possibly could.)
So while everyone was fixated on the Goodwin family drama (the next big scandal following the Miller pregnancy; turns out Maura Goodwin was boning Mr. Kipman, the math teacher, for a better grade), the Sam Uley Scandal flared up out of nowhere like an ugly case of herpes.
(Ew. Too graphic.)
Why, you may ask, were we digging up old graves? (Not literally, sicko.)
Because Jared Cameron, the one true love of Kim Connweller's life, vanished in just the same way.
Kim was, of course, beside herself. She even called up Jared's dad and asked if he was okay. (I promise that's the closest she's ever gotten to staking out his house.)
And then, barely a week later, Paul Lahote (Rez bad boy and bully) dropped off the face of the earth, too.
The Rez was abuzz with theories of alien abduction and other crazy bullshit, until my gossipy Aunt Daphne spotted the both of them disappearing into the woods, "shirtless, shoeless, like uncivilized cretins", with "that good-for-nothing Sam Uley character" no less.
So of course rumors of a gang started up, and the sudden growth spurts brought out rumors of steroid use, drug dealing, etc. There was even talk of a cult.
I, of course, knew it couldn't be true. This was La Push, after all, and nothing really exciting actually happens here. It defies logic.
And then I saw Jared and Paul, who suddenly looked almost identical, the day they came back to school, and the rumors of a cult suddenly seemed to hold actual ground.
I wish I could say that was the end to the weirdness.
The fucking impossible happened, third period.
Jared Cameron sat in his usual seat in English or History or whatever, conveniently alphabetically located next to one Kimberly Connweller. He looked over at Kim, probably to ask for a pencil.
And then he never looked away.
It was like the fucking Twilight Zone. The tables had not only turned, they'd fucking imploded, because Jared Cameron was officially obsessed with Kim Connweller.
The general consensus of that development went something like this: WHAT. THE. FUCK.
And I, for one, would have to agree.
I'm not an idiot (well, I did get my hand stuck in a Gatorade bottle, so maybe I am a bit), but I'm not naïve. Kim was there to protect me from potentially fatal beestings, and I was there to protect her from potentially devastating heartbreak. I mean, have you never seen She's All That? Or Cruel Intentions? I totally wasn't the only one who thought he was pulling her leg, trying to see if he could get all the way with the weird girl with a pathetic crush on him for a hundred bucks or something.
After the first month and a half, I kind of figured he might be legitimate. Of course, Kim and I ended up fighting more often than not because she took offense to my realistic attitude.
("Oh, so it's such a fucking crazy idea that someone like Jared could ever like someone like me without a trick? Thanks for the vote of confidence, Natalie, nice to know you've got my back." comes to mind)
I was just trying to be honest. Christ.
After that big argument and uneasy truce, I started to notice the trend of me, eating alone (with Henry and Rory). And of me, driving home alone. Spending the weekend alone. Going to class, alone.
Today will mark a month and a half of silence between me and Kim if she sits with Jared today. The sort of month and a half of silence that creeps up on you, really. I mean, I've been busy lately, with my brother getting engaged and left at the altar in January, and then getting an allergic reaction to the wedding cake, and then driving my car into the mailbox. So it was easy for the lack of Kimmunication (get it? Communication with Kim? Clever, right?) to go unnoticed. In fact, Kim artfully assuaged any doubts I had about her pulling away from our friendship by getting me gradually assimilated to less interaction. I became accustomed to her new ride (Jared, obviously.) And then it didn't seem a big deal when she only called on the weekends, and then not at all. And then weekend hang outs became more and more infrequent until it became the usual to not see her at all over the breaks.
She was fucking weaning me out of our friendship. Like I was a dependent baby animal and she was trying to get me to eat real food so I could survive in the wild.
Well, fuck her, because I notice now.
People bump into me on their way to lunch as I hover in the doorway, staring at my usual table and willing her to appear, sitting there like she used to back when it was our table.
(she's not, and I feel like the cafeteria is giving me an asthma attack).
I'm holding a little hope, because just because she's not sitting at our (…my?) table doesn't mean she won't show up in a second.
(even if she always, always beats me to lunch.)
I take a few steps into the room, and suddenly freeze. She is there, with Jared and Paul and Embry Call and Jacob Black. Sitting there, with them, smiling and laughing like she belongs.
Because she does belong, doesn't she? It's me who doesn't. It's me who doesn't belong anywhere.
Certainly not with them. With her.
I turn around and sprint out of the cafeteria, out of the school, and I guess out of Kim's life.
As I leave school behind me in the proverbial cloud of dust, it quickly comes to my attention that having a car is nowhere near as cool when you don't have a single friend to visit. Basically the only people on the whole fucking reservation who talk to me besides my mom are Henry fucking Hobber and Kim's kid genius sister Rory—and I am not so pathetic to stoop so low as to take Henry Hobber as my new best friend. If this is rock bottom, that scenario doesn't bear thinking about.
(And being Rory's friend is somehow even more pathetic, probably because not only does she think she's superior to me and the human race, but it'd seem like I was trying to get to Kim through her kid sister and that's somehow even worse than the Henry Hobber situation.)
Even so, driving around in my fifteenth birthday present (a "sorry I missed your birthday again!" present from my dad) was strangely cathartic. It was easy to leave Kim and her stupid boyfriend behind when I was putting physical distance between us.
I ended up driving home. My dad is a big-shot at his company or whatever so my mom doesn't have to work, which is great most of the time.
Now it would be awesome if she worked two jobs like Kim's does, at least so I could sneak and skip school unnoticed. But even as I pull into our long driveway, I can see my mom standing in the window glaring at my car.
I hop out, nearly twisting my ankle in the gravel, and stomp over to the front door. She rips it open before I'm even on the porch. Mr. Noodle, our basset hound, flops past her eagerly. At least someone in the universe is happy when I show up.
"Natalie Lisa Wright!" she shrieks, her hands on her hips. "It is eleven-thirty on a Wednesday. Mind my asking why you are not in school?!"
I ignore her, letting her rant about irresponsibility and teen pregnancy (not completely unfounded considering my brother Jeremy knocked up this girl his senior year, big drama at the time) while I squat down and bury my face in Mr. Noodle's flabby body. Dogs are great, you know? They don't ever ditch you. Not even for Jared Cameron.
I pet Mr. Noodle almost feverishly, taking some comfort from his sweet puppy face. He woofs, hesitantly wagging his tail, and gives me a lick on the face. All better, he seems to say. You not sad now.
I burst into tears.
"—completely irresponsible, and I—Natalie? Natalie, sweetheart, are you alright?" Mom's anger seems to drop away from her face, replaced by concern. "Sweetheart, talk to me. What's happened?"
I let her pull me inside, Mr. Noodle waddling along after us. She sits me down on the couch in our sitting room (different than the family room, apparently), and pulls me into a tight hug.
"Sweetheart, please. Let me help you. What's happened?"
Eventually I tell her. About Kim and Jared, and Sam Uley's weird gang. About the silence. About being alone. And gradually, as I rant, my tears turn to anger—at Kim, at Jared, at Sam Uley and the rest of them. I'm only half aware of what I'm saying as I accuse them of every single rumor I've ever heard—and then I come to halting, startling realization that floods me with a desperate kind of hope I probably left in the cafeteria with the loser table. It's a horrible idea, but somehow it seems less awful than the one dreadful, creeping thought of "Maybe she just doesn't want to be your friend anymore.", because this one gives me hope—it gives me a purpose. A mission. A way to bring things back to the way they used to be.
"Mom—Mom, they brainwashed Kim!"
And I, Natalie Wright, had officially adopted Operation Rescue Kim as my mission in life.
(so fucking take cover, bitches.)
A/N: ...so, what's the consensus? Yes, no, maybe so? Drop me a review! Thanks for reading!