"Stupid new girl." I muttered under my breath for the seventeenth time that hour.
"What has she done to you?" Keesha asked, dragging her toe through the gravel as she swung back and forth. I just scowled and tried to hide my glance toward the soccer field, where the boys were playing. "Oh." Keesha smiled.
"Them?" Dorothy Ann scoffed. "They're not worth it. She seems nice to me."
"At least she doesn't fight with Carlos like you do." I pouted. "Ralphie was going to help me put Arnold in the garbage can this recess."
"Don't worry about it, boys forget." Dorothy Ann assured.
"It's not like they're with her." Keesha added.
"Well if she wasn't here with her 'new-girl tractor beam' he would've remembered!" I cried. I sat firmly on the swing and began to pump. I could see her across the schoolyard, sitting by the wall by herself, acting all lonely. "She just wants them to go over there and save her." I said quietly.
"Come on, Wanda," DA called, hands on her hips. "Grow up."
"Yeah," Keesha added. "She's not evil – look at her over there by herself. She looks sad."
"She's faking it." I insisted.
"Wanda…" DA started. Keesha got up from her swing.
"I'm going to talk to her." She said firmly.
"Don't you dare." I warned, bracing my feet to hit the ground as I prepared to get off the swing.
"Come ON, Wanda," DA repeated. "She's just a new girl, what's the worst that could happen?"
I could see me by myself by that wall with New Girl laughing with my friends and trying to stave off my boys. That's the worst that could happen.
"No one can replace you, Wanda." Keesha smiled as if she knew what I was thinking. Keesha can creep me out that way. "She doesn't seem as daring as you. I bet you two can be friends."
"Like that will ever happen." I smirked. I trailed behind them, not wanting the new girl to know I was on to her. I had to jog a little to catch up when they'd stopped in front of her.
"Hi, I'm Keesha."
"Hi." She muttered. "I'm Phoebe."
"You looked kind of lonely over here." DA said frankly.
"You can come play with us if you want." Keesha offered. She elbowed me in the side hard.
"Yeah," I added breathily.
"Just don't steal any of Wanda's boyfriends." Keesha smiled as I glared at her. DA giggled behind her hand. Phoebe blushed and stood up, brushing asphalt off the seat of her pants.
"Don't worry," she said softly. "Boys don't even pay attention to me."
"Are you joking?" I cried. "They've practically been falling over themselves to sit by you!"
"Wanda likes to exaggerate sometimes." DA whispered. Phoebe smiled.
"Let's go get on the swings before Carlos does." Keesha scouted out the soccer field to make sure the boys didn't realize the swings were free.
"Last one there's a rotten egg!" I said and took off running. Maybe she wasn't so bad. She didn't seem all that stuck-up, but I couldn't be sure.
I made it to the swings first, of course, but Phoebe beat Keesha for second. "You're fast." I remarked.
"Thanks, I guess." She sat on a swing and smiled weakly. "At my old school, I was one of the fastest girls."
"That's cool." I said. Something about her was so innocent and harmless. "Why did you leave your old school?"
"We moved." She answered sadly.
"Do you miss your friends?" I asked.
"Sort of." She looked up at me for a moment, then looked back down at her feet. "I didn't really have any friends."
"Why not?" I asked.
"I don't know," she started as Keesha and DA came to the swingset together.
"You're both rotten eggs!" I laughed at them.
"At least I haven't eaten one!" DA retorted.
"It was for a quarter!" I argued. Phoebe and Keesha laughed and the bell rang.
"Last one there's a rotten egg!" I heard Ralphie yell as he left the soccer field.
"Let's go," I said. "We can take 'em, we have a head start!" Phoebe and Keesha got off their swings. DA shook her head.
"I just ran all this way…" She argued.
"Come on!" Phoebe grabbed her arm and started running. Keesha and I laughed.
"It's good for you, DA! Besides, you might beat Carlos!" I urged. All of a sudden, DA was pulling Phoebe.
The four of us made it to the door a few moments before the boys did. Ralphie and Carlos were first, followed by Tim, then Arnold.
"You guys cheated!" Ralphie insisted. "You were only half as far away as we were!"
"We weren't even in your contest and we still won!" DA said triumphantly to Carlos, even though she was responding to Ralphie.
"Yeah, well, lowest grade in art is a rotten egg!" Tim grinned.
"That's cheating." Keesha folded her arms.
"Takes one to know one!" Ralphie countered.
"Calm down, class." Ms. Frizzle insisted. "Let's sit down and get to work."
Even though I didn't trust her, I found myself thinking of Phoebe as my "project," since she didn't have any friends before. "Hold your friends close and your enemies closer," I remembered someone saying. I dragged her into the cafeteria, quickly telling her the ins and outs of Walkerville Elementary. DA and Keesha looked at each other and smiled.
"Stop it," I hissed at them.
"You'll never be friends with her?" Keesha remarked sarcastically. "I can't wait until you get matching keychains."
I gave her the evil eye and turned back to my prodigy. "Once someone found half a mouse in the refried beans." I said quickly.
"What?" Phoebe shrieked. "That's disgusting! How'd they find half a mouse?"
"They didn't." Keesha remarked.
"They found the whole thing!" Ralphie and Carlos chipped in, almost in perfect unison.
"Ew…" Phoebe wrinkled her nose.
"No, I'm kidding. They did find fingernail clippings though." I glared at the boys. "Any way, don't get the refried beans. The salad is good if you look at it closely. Most of the meat's good if you don't ask what it is. If you do, you can figure out when it was first cooked, which is usually a month ago." Phoebe turned green.
"What can I eat?" She asked meekly.
"Jello." I grinned. "Lots and lots of jello!"
And that's how I got Phoebe to eat nothing but jello for two weeks. Too bad she didn't turn any fun colors like Arnold did... That ruled.