description: unsure of herself, her future, and the future of the business she runs, a little voice inside of kristy's head screams for change. does she listen? you already know the answer if you read "before we grow up," but by popular demand both by readers and my brain, this is kristy's story.

a/n: again, written as if mallory never went to riverbend, mary anne's house never burned down. i'm probably not going to be updating this every day... maybe once a week? i have the dawn story, too, people! STOP PRESSURING ME! (i know, nobody cares, teehee.)

disclaimer: not mine. except the stuff that is.

rated t for security purposes. i do not have the ability to write a story that doesn't involve sex, drug use, and terrible fucking language. onward!


One.

I can't do this.

Nope, can't do it.

Looking around at my friends, seeing them so relaxed, frustrated me. Well, okay, they weren't all relaxed. Mary Anne looked nervous. Not scared, though. None of them looked like I felt.

I'm terrified. I hate it when things change. I hate not knowing what is going to happen. Most of all, I hate not feeling in control of myself. Which is just how I feel right now.

A piece of my hair fell into my eye for about the fifth time. Aggravated, I pushed it back. I should have just worn a ponytail, but I wanted to look nice for the first day of the End of My Life, so I'd let Mary Anne curl it.

I looked down at my watch. 8:23. The bell would be ringing in twelve minutes. Why start it at 8:35? Why not 8:30? I don't understand schools at all.

Around me, my friends were chattering excitedly. Stacey, Claudia, and Mary Anne were excited because they all had the same homeroom. Not me, though. I was all by myself, as far as I knew. I'm sure I'd recognize at least one person, but... it didn't seem fair that the three of them all got to be together. I wondered if maybe Abby would be in my homeroom. I don't really know if I care, she's been kind of distant all summer. The only other person I considered a friend at SMS was Logan, but... it would be weird to hang out with him. Mary Anne wouldn't like that at all.

Why don't I have any other friends?

I've never stopped to consider it. I mean, just a few months ago there were so many of us in the club I felt like I had all the friends I'd ever need. Slowly, though, the club began to break down, until summer, when we were left with only five members. Then Mallory had announced she was done with the club, that she wanted to focus on her writing and stuff. Really I think she just felt like a bit of a baby compared to the rest of us.

So now it's the four of us, and I have a feeling that won't last. We're in high school now. Things are going to be different. We'll all stay friends, of course, but I know the club isn't going to live much longer. Already we've taken meetings down to two days a week, Monday and Friday.

A bell rang and I snapped out of my daze. Stacey squealed. "It's time!"

She, Claud and Mary Anne all grabbed hands. Mary Anne held out hers to mine and I smiled thinly. "I'm going in the opposite direction." I lamented.

Mary Anne made a pouty face, and I detected a mist of tears in her eyes. "Oh.. Kristy. I'm sorry. Do you want me to walk you?"

Such a sweetheart. "Yeah, that'd be great. Then you can be late to homeroom on your very first day of high school. Don't worry," I went on, waving her away. I plastered a smile on my face. "I'll be fine. I'll meet you guys at lunch if we don't have any classes together, okay?"

I walked away quickly, not wanting them to see just how sad I really was. I wanted to cry a little, but did not dare. Mary Anne had swiped mascara on my eyelashes after she'd curled my hair, despite my protests. I've seen what happens to girls who cry with makeup on. No thanks. Plus if I started crying I'd probably get my head dunked in a toilet by a senior. Technically, the seniors aren't allowed to haze us freshman, but I've heard horror stories.

I found my homeroom without issue. I'd paid close attention on the tour. I slipped into a seat near the back, looking around. There were only seven other kids in there besides me, so far. Ashley Wyeth was one of them. I wanted to make a face, but she gave me a small wave. I gave one back. I don't like Ashley. She's very... weird.

I watched the door for other familiar faces, dismayed every time someone I didn't recognize walked through. Finally, just after the final bell rang, Miranda Schillabar ran in. She looked around the room. There were still several empty seats, including one next to me. I guess a lot of people are getting lost. I waved at Miranda, even though we really haven't hung out since seventh grade. She smiled, looking relieved, and slid into the seat next to me. "Kristy." She said. "Thank God. I was worried I wouldn't know anybody."

The teacher, who's name was Mr. Glassman, stood up behind his desk, looking around. "We're still missing a few. I'm going to give them another five minutes. You guys can relax. Get to know each other." He said with a smile.

I looked around the room for the first time. This was an English classroom, that much was obvious. The walls were lined in books and posters. Written on the board behind Mr. Glassman were the words "The Freshman's Guide To High School Survival." I pointed it out to Miranda, and we giggled nervously.

Once all of the students were in, Mr. Glassman handed us out schedules, and explained how our first day would go. Homeroom, normally only fifteen minutes, was extended to forty, and each class was cut down by five minutes to make up for it. Tomorrow we would begin the normal schedule. I skimmed my classes, noticing happily that first period was English, and it was right here. I wouldn't have to move yet. Things were looking up.

Miranda compared her schedule to mine. We had the same Algebra II class, as well as P.E. together. I wondered if Stacey would be in Algebra II, as well. I don't think so. She's probably already in Calculus, knowing her skills.

We paid close attention as Mr. Glassman gave his silly presentation, explaining how getting lost would not, in fact, cause sudden death, and telling us to think of a senior couple making out in the hallway as wild bears and not to get to close or make sudden movements. I spent the entire forty minutes giggling, my fears melting away. I've never had a teacher like this guy before. I'm glad I'm in his class.

The bell rang and Miranda stood up, still looking nervous. "Whish me luck." She said seriously, taking a deep breath.

"Good luck. I'll see you in Algebra!" I called to her, keeping my eyes on the door as she left. Waiting for my friends. Come on. Somebody. Anybody.

Sensing movement next to me, I looked over and was dismayed to see Ashley sitting next to me. She actually moved to be by me. "I have this class first period, too." She said in a bit of a serious, slightly snobby tone. "My art class isn't until eighth. Last class of the day! The art department here is mediocre, compared to Keyes. I went to Keyes, in Chicago? Before I moved here? Claudia probably told you."

I stared at Ashley, dumbfounded. I glanced backwards. "Who are you talking to?"

Ashley cocked her head. "You." She said, a little surprised. "Who else would I be talking to? I don't know anybody."

"You don't know me!" I exclaimed.

"Sure I do. You're Kristy. You're not still president of that silly club, are you?"

"I didn't mean... I know you know who I am, but you've only spoken to me like three times!" I didn't feel like defending the BSC to Ashley Wyeth. I've done it before.

Ashley looked a bit hurt. I pushed away a smidge of guilt that crept into my brain. "Just because we're not best friends doesn't mean I can't talk to you. Or do you speak to people outside of that club?"

"Of course I do." I snapped, more annoyed that she'd tapped my earlier thoughts than by Ashley herself. Deciding it was time for a subject change, my eyes fell to her feet, which were clad in what appeared to be Army combat boots. She was wearing a full length skirt covered in flowers, and a blouse that looked like it belonged on a pirate. "Didn't you used to wear work boots?"

"I like the statement these make. The suggestion of war, of peace, of obedience. They call upon people to listen." Ashley swung her hair to the side, revealing her ear. Last year she had three holes pierced in each ear. Well, now her left ear was covered in earrings all the way to the top. I counted nine. They were all spikes. I shook off the temptation to touch one, see if they really were sharp.

What a freak.

The bell rang, and I looked around, hoping for familiar faces. Save for Alan Gray (gag me) there were none. Mr. Glassman began covering what we would be learning this year, and I perked up, paying attention.

Ashley sat next to me, slumped in her seat. She was twirling a piece of string around her pen, looking bored.

Halfway through the class, a crumpled piece of paper bounced off of my shoulder and landed on my desk. I immediately shot Alan a Death Stare. He crossed his eyes at me and mouthed "read it."

Glowering, I discreetly opened the paper.

Nice to see you again, dork.

Rolling my eyes, I crumbled it back up and returned my attention to the front. Alan left me alone. When the class ended, I quickly told Ashley goodbye and went off in search of my next class.

Maybe I would find one of my friends there.


I was quickly learning that high school could be disappointing.

Not only did I not have any friends in second, but also none in third. I arrived at fourth, Algebra II, a little bitter. I knew Miranda would be in this class, but none of my friends would. I spotted Miranda toward the back of the room. She had her purse sitting on the desk next to her, and when she saw me she grinned and pointed to it.

"I saved you a spot." She said with a smile as I slid into the chair.

"Thanks." I said, feeling grumpy. And hungry. At least we had lunch next. I watched the door, as I had in my previous classes, knowing full well that none of my friends would be coming through it.

Miranda nudged me as a boy was walking in. "Hot." She muttered.

I studied him, not really interested. He was tall and kind of skinny, with longish, shaggy hair. He wore baggy jeans and a shirt that said "The Ramones". "Who is he?" I asked her quietly. He was coming near us.

"Derek Higgins. He's a sophmore. My brother hung out with him last year. He's–" She cut off as derek took the seat directly behind us. She leaned toward me. "He's kind of a bad boy, but I've always thought he was cute." She whispered, so quiet I could barely hear her above the chatter in the hallway.

I snuck a glance back at him. He was looking out the window, bobbing his head to headphones. "He's okay, I guess." I told her, not quite whispering. He probably couldn't hear us, anyway.

"Shhh!" Miranda exclaimed.

"What? He's wearing headphones. He's–" I snuck another glance his way.

He's looking right at me, smiling.

I cut off, my face heating up. I turned toward the front immediately. The bell rang. It's over. That never happened.

About ten minutes into the class, the teacher was droning away and I was already starting to lose interest. That's when I felt a tug on my hair. Barely noticeable.

Oh, no. He's another Alan.

I pretended not to notice. Sure enough, a few moments later, I felt another tug. Then a whisper. "Hey. Curly."

Biting my lip, I turned around slowly. I don't know what my plan was. Maybe to let him have it.

"What?" I asked rudely.

Derek smiled, his brown eyes warm. "I like your shirt."

I looked down. On the front was a picture of a bulldog in a spiked collar. On the back it said "My dog can beat up your dog." Stacey had nearly screamed when she saw me wearing it, saying I looked like a ten year old. I'd paired it with a pair of jeans and a studded belt. The studded belt was dressy, for me. I didn't see what was wrong with the shirt. And I'm right.

"Thanks." I told him with a forgiving grin. He'd paid me (or my shirt) a compliment. He couldn't be that bad.

I turned back toward the front and tried to pay attention, but mostly I fidgeted. Derek was staring at me. I could feel it. Miranda kept passing me little pieces of paper that had kissy faces and hearts drawn on them. I don't remember much having to do with Algebra.

When the bell rang I was almost sad, but Miranda stuck by my side as we ran into the hall. We discovered that our lockers were only about five feet apart. She was gushing about Derek and about how he likes me, while I just blushed. He didn't like me. He'd just liked my shirt.

We shoved our way through the crowd to the cafeteria, and got in line. "Do you want to eat with us?" I asked her once we were there.

"With who?" She asked.

"The Baby-Sitters Club!" I exclaimed. Like, who else?

"Oh." Miranda looked a little disappointed. "Uh... yeah. Sure. Why not."

We bought our food and I led Miranda to a table that Mary Anne had staked out. She grinned as we approached. "Kristy! Hey, Miranda! How are you? Where's your sister?"

"She's with her friends, I guess..." Miranda sounded a little uncomfortable. Strange.

I sat down and shoved a bunch of stuff - books, purses, randomness, out of the way. A combination of Mary Anne, Stacey, and Claudia's stuff, to make it apparent that the table was taken. "Did you guys all get here at the same time?"

"Yeah! We all have the same fourth period French. Cool, right?" Mary Anne sat down as well, gushing about her morning. I motioned for Miranda, who was still standing with her hand on a chair, to sit. She did so stiffly.

I bit into the egg salad sandwich I'd bought. Unlike SMS, you could pick from a million things to buy and eat. It was actually pretty good, too. I began to wolf it down as Mary Anne went on adn on. I began to tune her out, and wondered what was wrong with Miranda. She picked at her salad, occasionally nodding at Mary Anne.

Someone set a tray beside me and I remembered I had news. "Omigod!" I said through a mouthful. "I almost forgot. The strangest thing happened in Algebra--"

I looked up, expecting Claudia or Stacey.

They don't wear Ramones shirts, though.

"What happened in Algebra?" Derek asked, feigning eagerness.

Miranda snorted in laughter.

Mary Anne looked confused.

I wanted to die.

"I... uh..."

"Uhhh..." Derek mocked, his eyes still warm. He sat down and tugged my hair again. "What's your name, anyway, Curly?"

"Kristy." I said quietly, taking another bite of my sandwich.

"Kristy. Well, I'm Derek. I know Miranda. You are...?" He motioned to Mary Anne.

"Mary Anne. I'm Kristy's best friend." She said with a small, shy smile.

Claudia and Stacey plopped down at that moment, jabbering away. Saved by the bell. Derek would take one look at them and leave me alone.

They carried on their conversation, something about Paris (though the city or the heiress, I'm not quite sure) for about two full minutes before acknowledging there were other people at the table. Finally Stacey looked around and said "Oh. Hi?"

I introduced them to Derek. He merely smiled at them, then looked back toward me. Smiling. With those warm brown eyes of his.

He didn't seem interested in Stacey or Claudia at all. That sent a few shivers up my spine. This guy, this cute sophmore guy, had looked right at two of the most gorgeous, sophisticated girls in our grade and still appeared to be interested in me. Tomboy Kristy Thomas, the baby of the Baby-Sitters Club.

I didn't say much. Derek and Miranda talked a little, and Mary Anne, Claudia, and Stacey chattered away. When Derek finished his food he stood up slowly. "So, I'll see you ladies tomorrow, I guess. I hope the reception is just as warm." he walked away, tugging my hair once again as he did. "See you in class, Curly." He called over his shoulder.

"What's that supposed to mean, 'I hope the reception is just as warm.'?" Claudia asked.

"It means he's a jerk. A burnout. So not your type, Kristy." Stacey replied.

I looked at Mary Anne, who was nodding a little. Then I looked at Miranda.

She shrugged at me. "Derek is really cool." She told Stacey, sounding a little miffed. "He's been a friend of my brothers for a long time."

"Hmmph." Was all Stacey could say.

The bell rang, and we all went our separate ways before a fight could break out.

I spent the rest of the day in a bit of a haze. Stacey was in my Earth Science class, which was seventh period. I sat by her, but didn't really talk to her. What she'd said earlier had bothered me a little bit.

Eighth was P.E. It was nice to see Miranda again, who'd gone back to her Homeroom/Algebra self. She gushed about Derek and how I should totally date him. I listened and laughed a few times. She can be really funny.

When school let out I hurried for the bus, which I knew would leave quickly. I could take the late bus, but I didn't really want to be around my friends right then. As I boarded I spotted a mountain of curly brown hair sitting in the very back.

Abby.

Our eyes met, and she gave me a little smile. It was nice, but didn't feel very friendly. I sighed, slumping into a seat near the front and staring out the window. How do you just stop being friends with someone? When did it happen? I certainly didn't agree to it.

As the bus began to pull away, I spotted Mary Anne, Stacey, and Claudia walking down the road, away from the school. Together. Chatting excitedly. Friends. Who had apparently forgotten about me. I hope that's not true. I hope they just assumed I was on this bus.

When the bus stopped on McLelland I jumped off and tore down the street toward home, not wanting to talk to Abby. I ran up the driveway and into the house, nearly tripping over Shannon. She likes to lay in front of the door.

I chugged to a stop in the kitchen, where I found Mom, grinning widely. I flopped into a chair and she set a plate of cookies on the table and sat down with me. "So how was it?"

"Not bad." I said, shoving a cookie into my mouth. "I shouldn't have been so scared. I like my English teacher a lot."

"Good. So no problems?"

I didn't feel like telling her about how Stacey had been kind of cold to Derek and Miranda, and how I was afraid Claudia and Mary Anne may follow suit. "Nope, no problems. Hey Mom?"

"Yes, honey?" She asked, taking a bite out of a cookie as well.

"Can I use your curling iron tomorrow?"

Mom coughed, choking on her cookie. I slapped her on the back. "You want to use my curling iron?" She sputtered.

"Well, yeah..." I held out a lock of my hair, still wavy after the day at school. Mom had dropped me off at Mary Anne's house at seven this morning for these curls. "I mean, I just wanted to look nice for the first day, but I kind of like it, you know?"

Mom raised her eyebrows. I am, after all, her daughter that she'd given up on getting to be girly. "Of course you can use it." She said softly, fighting a smile. I could just imagine that internal conversation. Don't get your hopes up. It's just a curling iron.


The next morning, I was already awake when my alarm blared at six in the morning.

"Twenty twenty twenty four hours agooo, I wanna be sedated!"

I glanced at my clock radio, creeped out. The Ramones. It must be a sign.

I had washed an blown dry my hair the night before, so I jumped out of bed and immediately burst into my bathroom. There it was, Mom's curling iron, sitting next to the sink. I carefully brushed the knots caused by tossing and turning, then unwrapped the cord from the iron, plugging it in. I switched it on, testing the clamp out a bit. I've really never done this. I've seen it done plenty, though.

I waited impatiently for the little light to stop blinking. Mom explained that's how you know it's heated all the way. I grabbed a strand of my hair, about an inch wide, that's what I'd watched Mary Anne do, and wrapped my hair around the barrel. I waited thirty seconds or so, and released it. My hair sprung out in a perfect curl.

This isn't so hard. I continued, painstakingly. The girls would be proud. I have no patience for this stuff. As I waited, I played with the curled strands, tugging at them, picturing Derek's warm brown eyes. Hey, Curly.

I felt a sharp pain in my forehead, and made the mistake of contemplating it for a few seconds. When I realized it was a burning pain I gasped and released the latest strand from the clamp. I set down the curling iron and inspected my face in the mirror. On my forehead, I could already see a bright red welt. Oh, no. What did I do?

I sized myself up. Okay. My hair is half curled. I can't stop. What's done is done. I'll deal with the burn later. I went on meticulously curling each strand, being careful not to daydream. Focus. Keep your eye on the ball.

After what felt like hours, I released the final strand from the jaws. I sighed in relief, then shook my head, ran my fingers through, and spayed a generous amount of hairspray on. Everything Mary Anne had done. I surveyed myself in the mirror. Not bad, for a rookie. I glanced at the red welt on my forehead. One strand of hair fell over it a little. I tugged it further into place. It got in my eyes a little, but it covered the wound. My battle scar. I would say that I won this fight.

I ran around my room, getting dressed. Jeans, T-shirt (this one was camouflage with "ARMY" blazed across the front in red. I'm sure Ashley will be proud.) and belt. I choose my studded belt again, and throw on my black converse. I surveyed myself in my full-length mirror briefly, and, satisfied, ran downstairs. I dashed into the kitchen, clipping my watch. Seven forty five. My bus was coming in five minutes. I hate hate hate to be late.

"Bye everyone!" I called out, grabbing a package of Poptarts and running out the door.

If I'm going to do this tomorrow I'll have to get up earlier.