Disclaimer: I do not own The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy. So there.
Author's Note: Alright, first of all, I know I've been gone a long time once again, so I apologize. I've been busy with ACT testing and PSAE testing, and other school things. I was also in an opera, and I've been working on several other projects. Still, I apologize for not posting since January. Sorry for the fail. Also, if you have ANY problem whatsoever with any of the following content, please see the author's note at the END of the story, after you've read the story. Thank you, and please enjoy.
CHAPTER FOURTEEN: REWRITING REALITY
Alright. Close your eyes right now and picture one of your friends. Just picture one; it doesn't matter who. Picture your life together so far. The ups. The downs. Everything.
I make my way down the middle of the sidewalk. I feel the semi-warmth of the sunlight hitting my shoulders, my chest, and my cheekbones. I hear the sound of the light breeze rustling the tree tops; I feel it toying idly with my hair.
Are you still picturing that friend? Good. Forget about him or her for a second. Now I want you to think of your most embarrassing moment. But don't just think of it-- remember it. Remember it like it was yesterday, or, better yet, like it was today. Feel the sting. Relive the horrible, sinking feeling. Go on. I know you don't want to, but do it anyway. Make yourself uncomfortable. Live that moment. Feel it like you're drowning in it.
I walk lightly up the driveway, feeling my ankles go from warm to cool to warm again as I step in and out of the shadows of the tree leaves. I'm finally bathed in cool shadow as I step onto the porch. The smell of spring flowers and fresh-cut grass wafts through the air on the mischievous breeze from a recently tended garden.
Are you still picturing that moment? Good. Now picture your friend again. Except, this time, imagine that the embarrassing moment could have been prevented if it weren't for your friend. Better yet, imagine that your friend not only caused that horrible experience, but wanted it to happen. He or she did it to you on purpose. How does that make you feel? Angry? Really angry?
Angry enough to show up at your friend's house on a lovely spring day and beat him to death with his own cell phone?
I hear the porch creak almost musically as I make my way to the welcome mat. I stroke back some of my slightly wind-blown hair and ring the door bell. I clasp my hands together for a moment, warming them up from the cool, early spring air.
I'm going to make it painful.
I hear the soft, padded sound of Irwin's socks on the thick carpet. I see the screen door jiggle, then move. Irwin's face is partly visible through the sun-tinted glass of the front door.
When he sees my face, his expression changes from welcoming to the sullen indignity from the lunch table.
"Oh. Mandy," he says stiffly, opening the door. "Here to blame me for another one of your problems, yo?"
I keep my face expressionless, keep my eyes locked on his. "As a matter of fact," I say, "I am."
I step into his living room without waiting to be invited.
"What is it this time, Mandy?" he says. "Did I lose your homework? Did I hurt one of your friends, yo?"
"No," I reply. "Just the same-old-same-old."
He sighs. "How many times to I have to tell you, yo? I didn't do it!"
"You sure?" I say. I open the small bag I brought with me. I take out a copy of the school newspaper and my cell phone. "Because I think you might want to take a look at this."
I hold out the newspaper.
"So what?" he says. "I already told you I didn't take it, yo!"
"Really?" I say. I hold out my phone as well, showing him the evidence clearly. He looks at it.
"What is this?" he says, raising an eyebrow.
"It's a picture I took from your desk," I say. "Nice, isn't it? Looks a lot like the one in the school paper."
I catch a hint of nervousness in his eyes for a split second. Then it's gone.
"Kind of," he says. "So, what?"
"So," I say, " I've been doing a little investigation. I know it was you, Irwin. All the evidence points at it. And now it's time to teach you a lesson."
He backs toward his couch, his eyes now uneasy and shifty. "W-wait, yo!...! Y-y-you don't know for sure it was me..."
I start to walk slowly toward him. "The classroom, Irwin. It was your class."
He continues backward. "B-b-but it might not have been--"
"The desk," I say, coming closer and closer. "It could only have been yours."
"But--But I just didn't--"
"You had all the motives in the world," I say, backing him onto his plastic-covered couch."
"But it just--"
"The mushroom lamp, Irwin," I say, my eyes flashing. "The... mushroom lamp."
He stares at the floor. He knows he's lost.
"Okay, fine," he says, "I did do it. I was mad, okay?"
"So you decided to try and take me down?"
"Hey!" he says. He doesn't look me in the eye. I can tell he's hoping I won't notice his trembling lip. "I had good reason, yo! I mean, you've never let me touch you, and you've never let me date you, and... and even when we've fought, you've never let me talk things out with you! Even when it was your fault!" His hands ball into fists for a moment before he relaxes. "To see you get so close to Billy... To see you let him kiss you like that, even if it was just a one-time thing... and then not hurt him or yell at him or... or put him down afterward or anything, yo... It made me so... mad! I just... I lost control!"
I narrow my eyes. He's doing it again. Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the Irwin Sympathy Show, in which a dewy-eyed nerd-boy will attempt to guilt-trip you into submission with a glossed-up sob story. He sighs dramatically.
"If you had just given me a chance, Mandy! If you had just let me get close to you, just once, things could have turned out differently, yo! None of this would have happened if you had just though about my feelings!"
I stare at him incredulously. "You conniving little wench."
Suddenly the fear returns to his eyes as I move forward. He backs further onto the couch, and I hear the plastic squeak under his sweaty palms.
"You're just a whiny little kid who can't get his way," I say. "You wanted to play house, but I wouldn't be the mommy, so you stripped off my clothes, locked me in the doll house, and took off the roof so that everyone could point and laugh. Is that all I am to you, Irwin? Some doll you can just break when I don't play games your way?"
I see him cringe on the plastic cushions. "M-mandy," he says. "Please! I-I love you!"
"No," I say. "You don't love me, Irwin. I'm just some shiny toy that you want but can't have."
The warm sun beams in through the window. The birds sing softly outside. I see the terror in his eyes.
"Mandy...! Please! I'm sorry, okay?! L-leave me alone, yo!"
"But it's such a beautiful spring day," I say. "How about I stay here and play?"
A light breeze hits the sunlit window. An elderly couple walks by with their dogs. Somebody's lawnmower hums in the distance. Flower petals drift lazily from the crabapple trees in a neighbor's yard. Nobody hears the screaming.
I get to school the next day feeling... well... less than satisfied. I mean, Irwin is taken care of. He's here as well, but he's telling everyone that the broken nose is from some horrible encounter with an escaped convict (whom he brutally defeated, of course.). I suppose you could say I feel better now that I've gotten back at him, but this whole business is still far from over. The rumors are still spreading like fungus, and I have no idea how I'm supposed to clear things up again.
I could just make Irwin tell everyone it was all a hoax, but who would believe him? Even if he was the one who started the whole thing, no one actually knows he started it, and so no one would even believe him if he admitted to his lie. After all, once people start believing something bad about someone, it's almost impossible to convince them otherwise on the subject. It's just not human nature to admit you're wrong.
When I sit down at our usual lunch table, Irwin is gone and Billy is angry.
"Umm... Billy? " I say. "What's wrong with you?"
"I'm mourning the lots of my friend," he says, pouting in my direction.
"Mourning the what?"
He holds out the broken stress ball from yesterday.
"Lots," he says, "because you broke Mr. Bouncy-Face into lots of pieces."
"You can't possibly still be mad about this."
"I can and I am," he says.
"It was a stress ball," I say.
Billy looks at me suddenly with furious tears in his eyes. "He was a stress ball! He!!"
I'm beginning to lose patience with my life. "He was a cheap toy that you only had for ten minutes!"
"They were the greatest ten minutes this world has ever seen, and you stole them from me!"
"How are you still mad about this?!" I yell.
"Because!" he says. "Every time I find something I like, you ruin's it! You ruin's it with your big, angry fists and your dumb name-calling and your stupid, enormous eyebrows!!"
"I don't ruin your fun!"
"Yes you do! You smash my fun like you smashed Mr. Bouncy-Face! You're like some big, purple smashing monster who smashes stuff!!"
"What are you talking about?"
"When I wanted to go with Irwin to see the movie about the two giraffes who fell in love, you wouldn't let me because you said I had to do your chores!" he says. "When I tried to dress up as Sassy Cat for Halloween, you told me that you didn't want's ta see me near you dressed like that, so you put my costume through the weed whacker!"
"That's only two examples, Billy."
He hesitates. "... I can't think of any more! But I know there's some! You never let me do what I want, Mandy!"
"Billy, we're not going to talk about this right now."
"See?!" he says. "You won't even listen to me!"
"What could you possibly have to say besides your usual idiotic babbling?" I snap.
"I wanna talk about the kiss, Mandy!" he yells.
I tense up. "Keep it down! We don't need the whole world to hear!"
"What's the point?" he shouts. Several nearby students look our way. "They all know! Everybody knows! Everybody saw the newspaper!"
I cringe. Here it comes. Sometimes Billy has a way of saying the things nobody else seems to want to say. Sometimes it's a stupid joke, sometimes it's a story about a disgusting bodily function, and sometimes it's an embarrassing moment you really didn't want to remember. But no matter what it is, he'll bring it up at the worst possible time.
"Billy..., " I say, "people are watching, idiot! Keep it down!"
"Why?" he shouts even louder. Everybody already knows what happened!" He now has the attention of almost the entire lunchroom. "We kissed!" he shouts. "We kissed, okay?? And guess what?? Everybody saw!!"
I look down at my plate of not-quite-homestyle chicken noodle casserole. I want to punch him out so badly, but I know that no matter how many times I hit him, it's not going to undo anything. If anything, it'll just get people talking even more.
"Why can't's I say anything about it, Mandy?" he goes on. "Why're ya trying ta keep it down if everybody already knows?! Who are you trying to hide it from?"
"Billy, sit down," I murmur. "You're making a fool of yourself."
"You're making a fool of yourself!" he yells. "That's why everybody keeps laughing at you! You think's you're the big, fancy queen of everything who can make everybody do what you want, but everybody knows that you can't control anything anymore!"
"Hey, shut up!" I yell. "You don't know anything, Billy!" I look at the sea of eyes. "Nobody knows anything! You all think you know, but you don't!! So shut up, all of you!!"
I hear my voice echo against the cold walls of the cafeteria, and I realize that I was just screaming. For a moment, there's dead silence. Then, to my horror, I see some of them start to smile. I watch as they start to whisper in each other's ears and stifle fits of laughter. Something in me starts to deflate, then shrivel like a worn-out balloon. I'm the butt of the joke. No matter what I do or what I say, I'm the butt of everyone's sick joke.
I get up, grabbing my things. I can't believe I ever came back to school. I stalk out of the cafeteria and down the halls. What am I supposed to do in this place? I can't trust anybody anymore. Nobody respects me. Nobody even fears me. I'm just a joke... I'm just a sick joke...
Somebody touches my arm. I jump, then whirl around. It's her again.
"Dora?!" I say. "What do you want?"
She just smiles. "Feeling a little weighed-down, BFF?"
I grimace. "Don't call me that. Why would you care, anyway?"
She puts an arm around my shoulder. "Mandy, I think I might just be able to help you out of this mess."
I pause." ...Why?"
"Why would you want to help me out? I thought the rumors were good for business."
"They were," she sighs, "but as of recently, our newspaper sales have been going down. Now that people know everything there is to know and then some, they don't want to find out any more. What's worse, there's nothing else to write about, and I'm afraid we're all getting terribly bored."
"So, I'm thinking an all-new series," she says, smiling. "We could call it Mandy: What Really Happened."
I hesitate again. I don't know if I can trust her, but at this point I can't afford to pass up any opportunities. "... I'm listening," I say finally.
"We can tell the story," she says. "The real story. At least... more or less. We'll have to dress things up a bit, but for the most part, it'll be true."
I look at her. "And what makes you think it'll change anyone's mind?"
She just laughs. "Mandy, if there's one thing you and I both know, it's that people are stupid. You know that pop star Lily Harrison?"
I think. "Kind of."
"You know how everyone started hating her because she dumped her husband for a rap star, and then started cheating on him with someone twice her age?"
She looks at me indignantly. "Well, they did. We all did. But then something happened. Do you remember what it was?"
She looks at me expectantly, but before I have the chance to tell her I have no idea what she's talking about, she answers for me.
"That's right-- she had a baby. Turns out, she was pregnant with her ex-husband's baby the whole time. So he got back together with her, and she promised to change her ways and become a good mother for her new daughter. Suddenly, everyone was rooting for Lily Harrison! It was like we'd all forgotten about the horrible things she did to all those guys!"
"So... you're saying I should have a baby? I say skeptically.
"Tch. No." She crosses her arms. "I'm saying that you're not just famous, Mandy, you're infamous. So what you need is a good publicity stunt to make people start rooting for you again!"
I think for a minute. It's actually not that bad of an idea.
"Well," I say. "What exactly do you have in mind?"
She laughs again. "Just meet me after school in room 217 tomorrow, Mandy. And bring Billy, too. I'll explain it all then."
Billy and I arrive at the classroom at 3:35, deciding to put off our janitorial juties until later. The room is empty, except for four students gathered around a group of desks which have been pushed together to form a table. Dora sits at the head of the makeshift table, but gets up to greet us.
"Mandy! Billy!" she says with mostly fake congeniality. "It's good to see you. Please, let me introduce you to the Daily Blurb's top writing staff."
I look at the other people in the room. Sitting around the table are Pudd'n, Nergal Jr., and one nerd girl I don't recognize. Looks like the staff of the school newspaper is made up of mostly losers.
"Alright," I say. "You've got everyone here. Now, what are you planning on doing?"
Dora sits back down. "I got all our best writers together and told them to get to work. I told you I'd get you a publicity stunt, and I did. Each one of us has come up with our own story for you and Billy. We are going to brief you on each one, and you two can choose which one you think is most believable. Okay?"
"What are we going to do with it?" I ask.
She grins. "We'll take their raw story ideas and edit them into scripts so you can can act them out."
"Wait... what?" I say.
"You remember when you and your friends got called up to do that skit for the guest speaker?" she says. "It'll be just like that, only this time you won't mess it up. And it'll be so good that everyone will think it's true!"
"You've gotta be kidding me."
"I'm not," she says. "You'll do it in the middle of school. No one will even suspect that it was all staged!"
"This is ridiculous!" I say. "I don't act! And everyone knows Billy can't do it!"
She taps her fingers on the desk impatiently. "You have to do it. It's your only option left, and your reputation is at stake here!"
I sigh. "Fine," I say, "but these had better have some pretty believable dialogue."
"Good," she says. "Let's start with you, Pudd'n."
Pudd'n hasn't changed much personality-wise since fifth grade. Physically, though, he's almost unrecognizable. He's one of those unfortunate boys who look as if puberty sneaked up on him in the middle of the night and beat him half to death until his face and body were entirely disfigured. He has long, skinny legs; around, boyish face; and the beginnings of what will be an explosion of facial hair in a few years.
He clears his throat and begins to speak in his not-quite-high, not-quite-low voice. "Um, my story starts with Billy and Mandy walking into the lunchroom. Its working title is 'Mandy's True Love'."
He begins to read.
Mandy walked into the lunchroom with Billy.
"Oh, Billy," she said, " I just don't know what to do! Everyone keeps telling all these rumors about me! I just don't feel like I can go on! "
Billy looked at her with his strong, dependable gaze. "Don't be silly, Mandy," he said to her. "You can be strong. I know you can."
"But...," she said, her eyes filled with sadness, pain, and despair, "no matter where I turn, everyone is saying something different! I-I just don't know what to do! The other day, one of my girlfriends told me I would never be respected again... Do you really think that's true, Billy? That nobody respects me?"
She sniffed. Billy saw that she was starting to cry. He lifted his hand to her face, brushing the warm, wet tears from her blushing cheeks.
"Mandy...," he said, "I respect you. And more than that, I love you. And nothing and nobody will change that as long as we live."
He embraced her then, and slowly, their lips came closer and closer to each other. They gazed at each other for one crystal moment before finally coming together in a tender kiss.
I look at him. "Okay, what?"
He frowns. "You don't like it?"
"I wouldn't say any of that! It wasn't like me at all! What's more, you made Billy too smart, and there is no way I am ever going to cry or kiss in front of two hundred people!"
Pudd'n looks down. "Fine, then, let's hear Junior's."
Nergal Jr. picks up his story. Ever since fifth grade ended, Junior has been trying to find some sort of identity for himself. It seems like he's trying to fit into a new clique every couple of months. Lately, he's been dressing himself up as what seems to be an attempt at goth or emo, or some other sort of dark, alternative fashion. He mostly just looks like some poser with converse sneakers and a duct tape wrist band with "Pain" written on it in black marker.
He looks at us. "My story is called 'The Death Within', and it takes place in the school library. He begins reading.
Mandy walked into the library wearing a black dress, black combat boots, and a black hoodie. She also had black eyeliner, and her hair was dyed black, and she was wearing a black corset with red laces in it. She also had black ripped tights, and a red and silver belt, and she--"
"Umm," I say, "Not that I'm not completely enamored with gothic apparel, but can we please move on to the actual story?"
He sighs. "Fine. Jeez..." He continues.
She walked up to a shelf to see if they had any books about death or pain. Just then, Billy came up.
"Hey there, idiot," she said. "Are you here to ruin my day already?"
He shook his head. "Just to make you happy, Mandy!"
She looked at her feet. "How can I be happy when my life is the epitome of all pain and suffering?" she said.
"Uh... what do you mean, Mandy?"
"Billy... everyone keeps talking about me. They... they call me every name imaginable. They insult me. I even get phone calls about it. No matter where I turn, there's something to remind me about the torture that is my very existence. It's enough to make me... to make me..."
"Make you what?" Billy asked.
Mandy hesitated, then pulled up her left sleeve to reveal several cuts on her arm.
"What?!" I say. "I wouldn't slit my wrists over this! And I'm not doing it just for the sake of your stupid skit!"
"You don't have to actually cut yourself!" Junior explains. "You can just draw the lines on with red markers, or something!"
"No one's gonna believe that," Pudd'n says. "Somebody's gonna have to see the fake cuts at some point, and then nobody will be fooled anymore!"
"And if anybody finds out you were faking the cuts on her wrist, they could seriously be offended," the nerd girl says. "It's a touchy subject. They'll think you're trying to make fun of self-mutilation, and people will get mad at you, and then they'll blame the whole newspaper staff for being politically incorrect. We're trying to prevent scandals, remember? Not cause a bigger one."
Junior sighs. "Okay, we can edit that part out. Anyway, lemme keep reading! It gets good!"
Mandy looked at Billy. "Now do you see? This is driving me insane. And you're not helping. All you do is make things worse with your idiocy. So I can't associate with you anymore."
She turned away.
"What do you mean, Mandy?" Billy said.
"I can't be with you anymore, Billy," she said. "You're... ruining my life. That's why... I've decided to get together with Grim."
"Grim?!" I say. "Where does HE fit into this?"
"What?" Junior says. "I just think that Mandy and Grim make a more believable pair than Mandy and Billy."
"He's so much older than me!"
"Well, that won't matter when you become queen of the underworld!"
"What does this have to do with the rumors, Nergal Jr.?" Dora asks.
"Um...," he says, "l... I guess I got carried away."
Dora turns to the nerdy-looking girl. "What's your story called, Amelia?"
She smiles. "Mine is called 'To Mend Her Heart', and it takes place in the computer lab."
It was a day like any other at Endsville Middle School. Mary Sue was just sitting down in the computer lab when she saw the love of her life, Jason, walking down the hallway. She knew that she had wanted to go out with him since sixth grade, but for some reason, she just couldn't get up the nerve to--
"Okay, what does this have to do with me and Billy?" I interrupt.
"... I'm getting there," she says.
"Really? 'Cause right now it seems to me that your story is mostly going to be about Mary Sue."
"Well, it's set in Endsville Middle School," she says, "And you and Billy get mentioned lots of times!"
"Yeah," Junior says, "They get mentioned. But the story is supposed to be about them."
"This is stupid," I say. "None of these stories are realistic at all!"
"Haven't you ever heard of creative license?" Pudd'n says.
I roll my eyes. "There's no time for creative license! We're trying to come up with a believable story that we can act out! Where are we supposed to fit any of your ideas in with our actual lives?"
Dora clears her throat. "You're forgetting about my story."
"Okay," I say. "This had better be good."
Dora stands up. "My story is set in the lunchroom. It's called 'I Believe You'."
Mandy and Billy sat down at the table. Mandy sighed tiredly.
"Billy, this is getting way out of hand," she said.
"Everything," she said. "Everyone keeps telling all these rumors about me."
"So," she said, "most of them aren't even true. I know they aren't true. But... no matter what I do, everyone keeps using it against me. I can't win."
Billy took a bite of his food. "Well, if you know they aren't true, and I know they aren't true, what's the problem?"
"I just wish it would all stop," she said. "I want people to stop talking about me. How would you feel if everyone in the whole school hated you for something you didn't really do?"
"Gosh, I don't know, Mandy...," he said.
"No, you don't," she said. "Nobody ever will. I just want somebody to believe me..." She looked down at her hands.
"Mandy... you know I believe you, don't you?"
She looked at him. "Yeah, but..."
"Mandy," he said, "even if other people say things about you, I'll always know the truth. And I'll always be here for you, even when no one else is. Please don't be sad."
"But... what am I supposed to do?" she said.
He took her hand. "I promise I'll try to make people believe. I'll try my very best!"
She sighed. "Okay..."
"Just trust me, Mandy."
He pulled her into a warm hug, and finally kissed her softly.
"Hey," I say. "what did I say about that kissing thing?"
"Look," says Dora. "I know it's not very natural for you, but you have to make people root for you. And if you want that, then a heartfelt kiss is usually the best way to go."
"But Mandy doesn't got's no heart," Billy says." She's just a mean meanie!"
"Exactly," says Dora. "That's why we have to make people think she isn't a mean meanie. It's our job to make her seem like a misunderstood underdog so that people will feel sorry for her and want to like her."
"Still," I say. "We weren't quite ourselves in that story. We were just generic characters."
"Well, it was the best I could do, okay? I had to write it really fast before everyone completely antagonized you! Would you rather use one of the other stories?"
I groan. "I guess if this is really the best you can do... we'll take it."
She grins. "Great! I'll just put it all in script format, and then you can start rehearsing it!" she giggles. "This is so exciting! I've never directed a play before!"
I look at Billy. "Well... ready to start rehearsing?" I groan.
He sticks his tongue out at me. "I'm not doing anything with you! You're not my friend!"
I feel like banging my head against a wall. I cannot believe I agreed to do this.
Author's Note: Okay, that was chapter fourteen. Now, for some more disclaimers. PLEASE READ THE FOLLOWING SENTENCES; THEY'RE IMPORTANT. Okay, clearly, I have referenced several story types in this chapter that are common to . PLEASE NOTE that I DO NOT have any problem with any of these types of stories, including the GrimXMandy fandom, stories with self-mutilation and gothic characteristics, fluffy romance stories, and stories with OCs. I am able to enjoy all of these, as long as they are done well and are true to the characters. I am not trying to criticize any of these types of stories, I am just trying to criticize the ones that are done badly or in the wrong context, and also am trying to portray what Mandy would think if she actually were to read any of these stories, good and bad.
By the way, she'd probably hate The Billy Incident, too, if she ever laid eyes on it.