Well I got the third chapter up before the end of the month...on the last day of the month :)

Hope you enjoy!

Chapter 2 - My Best Friend


I hate having a brother.

This may come as a shock, but little brothers are annoying, pests and definitely do not have any manners. My brother is no exception, and despite the fact he'll be turning six in just over a month, that does nothing to his maturity. Sure, he's five, so I should cut him some slack. But let me just say, at five years old, I had some manners at least. Like right now, for example. It's the first day of a new school year and I was up and ready when my mom called for me to come get some breakfast. Ben, however, had to have Dad drag him downstairs, where he proceeded to blow bubbles in his milk glass. Ew. I have to agree with my best friend, Lizzie, that little brothers are the worst. She would know, as she not only has one little pesky brother, but two!

"Hans, you ready to hit the road?" My dad asks, coming into the kitchen swinging his keys. He's not dressed up or anything because why would he need to be? His job is to spend all day at the zoo talking to poor kids about the joys and wonders of snakes; not! Being his kid means I have to hear the snake lectures 24-7, not just for half an hour on a school trip to the Boston Zoo. I probably know more about snake skeletons that anyone knows about anything. Yeah, I have a bit of a problem.

Eager to get to school and away from my brother, I nod, jumping off the bar stool. "Yep!"

My mom comes into the kitchen just now too, and smiles as she sees what I'm wearing. "Love the fashion choice Hans," she comments with a smile.

Pleased, I smile back at my mom. My mom's best friend, Megan Wong designed the outfit I'm wearing; a pleated burgundy skirt, white scoop-neck t-shirt and strappy black sandals. The perfect seventh grader outfit, in my opinion. Megan sends us free stuff all the time and us girls of the household are the only ones who seem to take advantage of the gifts. Ben only wears clothes that have a million holes in them, and my dad is forced to wear the hideous zoo-worker outfit. Too bad. I would rather die than wear what my poor father has to wear; beige khakis and a green polo with the words "SNAKE CHARMER" embroidered on the front. Yikes. Lizzie's made a few comments about the outfit before, and while I've never said out loud that I agree, in my head I'm always nodding.

That's the thing about Lizzie; she always says what you want to say. The problem with that, however, is that sometimes it's not always nice. I may be starting grade 7 today but I'm not blind to the stuff that Lizzie says sometimes. For someone who's mom is really nice, she can be a real piece of work, as my dad has mentioned before. I try not to listen to his comments, which he doesn't make often, but he's not wrong either. Lizzie's my best friend, but even I get tired of her snotty comments. They just aren't kind.

I look up from grabbing my backpack off the floor to see my dad kissing my mom. "Yuck," I say, turning away. While I may obsess over boys at school and may even hope I get my first kiss this year, there's always going to be something disgusting about watching your own parents making out.

My mom laughs and pulls me into a hug. "You're going to rock seventh grade, honey. I can't wait to hear all about it. Wait outside for me after school, alright? I have to pick up Ben first." Emerson Elementary, where my brother goes, gets out ten minutes earlier than Walden Middle today, for some stupid reason. Which means I have to wait for my mom to get Ben first, before she can come pick me up. My dad doesn't get home until dinner time, which is why my mom's the one who picks us kids up.

"Okay, I will." I swing my backpack onto my shoulder. "Bye!" I call over my shoulder, following my dad to the front door.

I hear Ben yell something incomprehensible over his shoulder. Rolling my eyes, I slam the front door behind us and jump into the backseat of my dad's SUV. The air is crisp and even though it's still warm, I shiver slightly. My dad backs out of our driveway and points the car towards Walden Middle, fiddling with the radio. Silence washes over us but it's a comfortable kind of silence; unlike my mom, my dad is a silence kind-of guy.

He clears his throat once we get within a block of school. "Make good choices today," he says, his signature goodbye.

The car rolls to a stop and I quickly lean forward to press a kiss to my dad's cheek. "Always do Dad," I reply, then get out of the car. I don't look back as I walk towards the front doors. Seventh grade, here I come.

Homerooms for grade sevens and eights are organized by last name. In grade six, homeroom is more crucial because it's your first year at middle school and you need more access to your teacher. Now that I'm a seventh grader, I'm expected to know what to do. Of course, my teacher's around if I have questions but for the most part, I'm on my own.

Lizzie's already checking out the homeroom list at the front of the school when she spots me. "Hannah!" she shouts, waving me over. I shoulder my backpack better and race to her side.

"What?" I ask.

"You have homeroom with The Prince!" She shrieks at me, pointing at a random list. "Look!"

My gaze turns to where she's pointing. At first I don't notice it, but then I see my name, and a few below it is The Prince's. "Oh my gosh," I say.

"I know! You have to talk to him about me okay? Tell him that I think he's like the most talented person ever." Lizzie sighs dreamily.

I try not to roll my eyes. The Prince is Lizzie's crush, the guy she's been obsessing over since elementary school, it seems. Sure there's been other guys over the years, but Lizzie's heart has always belonged to The Prince, apparently. Me, I think he's definitely attractive, what with his piercing blue eyes and mop of dirty-blond hair, but he's not really my type. Plus, even if I did like him, Lizzie apparently has dibs. She has since she first met him in Kindergarten almost.

Instead of rolling my eyes, I nod encouragingly at my best friend. "Of course," I say.

"Great." Lizzie smirks. She flounces away and pulls me with her. I'm about to complain about Ben, when I hear my best friend sigh loudly. "Oh look, there's my idiot cousin."

I follow her gaze and spot exactly who Lizzie's talking about; Ella Hawthorne. Ella Hawthorne's dad is Lizzie's mom's brother, and Lizzie hates her. Personally, I think Ella is great, but I obviously can't tell Lizzie that. She hates Ella more than gum on the bottom of her shoe, and isn't afraid to state it. Ella probably takes the most mean words from Lizzie, which I feel bad for. One of the cons about being friends with Lizzie, I guess, I can't ever backtalk her.

Sometimes I really want to stick up for Ella, or at least tell Lizzie to stop being mean. She isn't always directly mean, but when it comes to Ella, the only word used to describe her behaviour, is cruel. I clear my throat, ready to make today the day that I stop her, but Lizzie is already making her way across the school yard to Ella. It's all I can do to catch up and hear when she has to say.

"Hi Ella," Lizzie says, making a face.

Ella, who's always polite despite the things Lizzie's said before, looks up and smiles. "Hi Lizzie, how are you? I like your dress."

This makes me glance down at Lizzie's outfit. I hadn't noticed that she was wearing a black spaghetti strap dress earlier. That must've been something she left the house in before her mom saw. I know Emma, Lizzie's mom, would flip out if she saw the length of the dress Lizzie has on. It's barely longer than a pair of shorts would be.

Lizzie is taken aback for a split second, before she rolls her eyes and replies, "Fine." Compliments always make Lizzie take a second to stop. "Anyways, I just wanted to say that you better stay away from him this year."

Ella, just like me, knows exactly who "him" is too. But, with her face the picture of innocence, she turns to Lizzie and says, "I don't know what you're talking about."

I try not to laugh. Ella is not exactly shy when it comes to her cousin. Sure, she takes the most mean words but they never seem to get to her. And while Ella doesn't backtalk Lizzie, she always seems to anger her nonetheless. I manage to stifle my giggles as Lizzie's eyes narrow at Ella.

"You know exactly who I'm talking about. Just stay away."

Ella shrugs. "Okay." Her gaze flicks over to where some of her other friends are. "Can I go?"

Lizzie isn't done though. "Also, I know Parker's starting at Colonial Academy this year, which means you're going to be without a sidekick. So stay out of my way, or else you're going to be sorry." She pushes past Ella, who just has a blank look on her face, and pointedly throws a look over her shoulder at me. "You coming Hannah?"

I shoot Ella an apologetic look and follow my best friend. "Lizzie," I start to say, once we're out of earshot.

Again, I'm stopped by Lizzie, who this time is shrieking. "Hannah, there's The Prince!" She says, pointing. I watch as he gets off of his bus, scanning around. "Think he's looking for me?"

I cringe. I'm sure Lizzie is the last person he's looking for, but I don't say that of course. Instead, I shrug, which could count as yes or no. "Maybe?"

"He's coming our way!" Lizzie whips out her lip gloss and applies it. "I look okay right?"

"You look fine." I quickly look down at the ground. Sometimes it's hard to be best friends with Lizzie.

Lizzie's all smiles for when The Prince walks by us. "Hi," she says, and I bet she's batting her eyelashes too. The Prince nods in Lizzie's direction, but doesn't say anything. He's too busy still scanning around for the one person I know he's looking for. Lizzie however, takes this nod as an "I love you" and starts to squeal. "Oh my god! He's totally in love with me," she says.

Before I can respond, I'm saved by the bell. "Gotta run!" I say, pulling away from Lizzie.

She grabs my arm and forces me back to her. "Not so fast. You'll talk to him about me, right? But don't get too friendly. He's mine, got it?" Lizzie looks me dead in the eyes.

I stare back. "Got it. See you at lunch," I say, then pull away again. I jog around the side of the building to where I know my homeroom lines up. Ms. Tracey is cool, for a homeroom teacher.

During homeroom, I don't make a move to talk to The Prince at all. Instead, I chat with some of my other friends, who aren't like Lizzie. They ask about my summer and I tell them how I got to watch my dad's snake molt another skin. They act grossed out right on cue, which makes me laugh. Their summers seem just as plain, and I'm smiling by the time the next bell rings.

The rest of the day passes smoothly, well as smoothly as the first day of school can be. Lizzie is ultra-popular among our grade, so during lunch she entertains our "squad" of girls. They want to hear all about her plans to get The Prince to like her. I just poke at my turkey sandwich that my mom made, trying to keep silent. Nothing's changed since sixth grade, that's all I can say.

Last period is free choice, something that sixth graders never got. It's only for seventh and eighth graders, because the two grades are combined for the "elective" they choose. Much to Lizzie's disappointment, I will not be attending textiles with her, where she ultimately reigns with most of the girls in our grade. No, I chose theatre, and I'm excited to try something new. The theatre class always puts on a play at the end of the year, so I have that to look forward too. Last year they put on Snow White, and apparently the same "Disney Princess" theme is staying, as the theatre director Mr. Jameson tells us that this year, Sleeping Beauty is going to be the spring play. I'm excited; maybe I'll get to play something cool. I think the evil queen would be really fun.

After giving his spiel, Mr. Jameson lets us mingle so we can start getting to know our classmates. To my surprise, The Prince is in this class as well! I completely forgot he was a theatre nerd. Last year he was one of Snow White's dwarves, which was a really good role for a seventh grader. It's almost a given rule that eight graders get the leads and seventh graders are stuck with ensemble parts or stage hands. I know my dreams of getting the role of the Evil Queen are really slim, but I hope that when auditions come around, I'll be prepared to blow Mr. Jameson away.

Class is almost over, when Mr. Jameson calls attention again. "I'm really looking forward to a great year with you guys," he begins. "Remember, I'll be evaluating your performance in class, and that will help me decide your role in the play this spring. WIth that, have a wonderful afternoon! I hope your first day of school was great, and I look forward to the coming year."

We all nod and clap. The bell rings, right on schedule, and everyone grabs their bags and starts to leave the room. I take my time, knowing my mom is gonna be late.

The Prince is also hanging back. He lingers outside of the drama room doors (they lead directly outside), looking around. He nods towards me as I pass. "Hey Hannah," he says.

"Hey," I reply. I've known The Prince practically since I was born. While we aren't good friends, or even friends really, we hangout at least once a year at family-friend get togethers. Both our moms, plus Ella and Lizzie's mom's grew up together, so we have yearly "hangouts". Although normally at those get togethers, Lizzie and I hangout together with our other friend Gracelyn, and The Prince, his sister and Ella hangout together.

I know who The Prince is waiting for. He's waiting for his best friend, Ella Hawthorne. Yeah, Lizzie's cousin. Another reason Lizzie hates Ella is because of her friendship with The Prince. It's stupid, yes, and totally unnecessary. But Lizzie is Lizzie and even she can't explain some of the things she does.

"You excited for the play in the spring?" The Prince asks.

I nod. "Yeah, it'll be fun!"

He smiles. "I know. I tried to convince Ella to join Theatre this year, but she refused." His eyes light up a little, when he mentions Ella, I can't help but notice.

"Haha, yeah," I don't really know what else to say. Oh I know! Lizzie reminded me of it this morning trying to make a dig at Ella, but I can use it as a conversation topic. "How was your sister's first day at Academy?" The Prince has a twin sister named Parker, who's six minutes younger. This might seem like a weird fact to know, but it's common knowledge for me, because Lizzie knows and tells me every fact she can about The Prince.

He looks over at me, surprised I remembered. "I think she liked it," he finally says. "She was sad to not start grade eight with us, unlike me, she's smart. Colonial Academy will allow her to put her brains to good use."

"Right." I nod, acting like I understand. And actually, I do.

We talk about basic topics for a few more minutes, before I notice my mom's car pulling up. "My mom's here," I start to say, right as The Prince notices Ella running towards us.

"See you later," he says. He waves at Ella and she waves back.

"Bye," I say, shouldering my backpack and starting for Mom's car. I can't help looking over my shoulder at The Prince and Ella, who are already talking about something that happened earlier. Clearly Ella's not going to stay away from The Prince like Lizzie told her. And why should she? The Prince is her best friend; she shouldn't have to stay away from her best friend just because her cousin told her.

My mom smiles as I jump into the car, buckling up next to Ben. "How was the first day of seventh grade?" She asks, starting to pull away from the school.

"Fine," I answer. I glance over at my brother, who for once is quiet. Normally he's loudly talking whenever I get in the car.

"How's Lizzie? And was that Riley I saw you talking to?"

I nod. The Prince's real name is Riley. "Yeah. He's in Theatre with me."

"That's pretty cool," my mom says, smiling at me in the rearview mirror. "Hey is everything okay honey?"

I nod again. "Yeah, it's fine." I honestly don't know what's bothering me. Maybe it's seeing Ella with Riley? But why would that make me upset? I don't like Riley-excuse me-The Prince.

I let Ben take over keeping up the chatter for once, staring out the window instead. We're turning down my street when it finally hits me. I'm not upset about anything to do with Ella and Riley. I'm upset with myself. Why should I let Lizzie walk all over people I actually like? Why should I let Lizzie dictate who I'm friends with and who I can't be friends with? It's my life, which means my decisions.

But how do I tell my best friend I don't want to be best friends with her anymore? How do I tell her that she needs to give me space to make my own decisions? How do I tell someone like Lizzie Norton to stop being mean? It's in her blood it seems, sometimes.

I don't have the answers right now, but I swear to myself that I'm going to try to find the answers soon. On my own or with help, I need to start making my own choices this year. Taking Theatre was the first step. Not talking about Lizzie to The Prince when I had the chance was the second step. Now I just need to figure out how to tell my best friend to stop being my best friend.

It won't be easy, but it's gotta be done. I'm twelve now and in the seventh grade, officially. Time for me to make my own decisions.

Please leave a review/comment if you liked the story!

Chapter 3 will be up in July sometime :)

UPDATED list of the characters/their families:

Jess Delaney married Darcy Hawthorne and they have 2 children: Ella who just turned 13 (birthday is July 28) and Carson who is 10
Cassidy Sloane married Tristan Berkeley and they have 3 children: Riley and Parker are twins and are 13 (birthday is June 3), and Jase is five turning six near the end of the year.
Emma Hawthorne married (to be announced!) and they have 3 children: so far you only know about Elizabeth who is normally called "Lizzie" (and will be for the rest of the story unless she's in trouble) who's 12.
Megan married (to be announced!) and they have 4 children: so far you only know about Gracelyn (who is more commonly called Gracie; in this story she will be called either Gracelyn or Gracie) who is 13 but in the same grade as Lizzie and Eloise who is 10 (Carson's age).
Becca married Theo, and they have 2 children: Hannah who is 12 and Ben who is almost 6.