A/N: Ten reviews over the last three chapters? Aw. That makes me sad. I got twenty on chapter nine!
When I think about it, it's kind of amazing that I've been writing this almost twenty-two months. And I haven't given up yet! I'm into the thirty-some thousand words, which is definitely an accomplishment – though about two thousand of those are probably "like". Wanna know why I'm still writing? It's BECAUSE OF YOU GUYS. I know I say this a lot, but you have NO idea how happy your reviews make me. They make me want to go off and WRITE. So when I say that if you review, the updates will be more frequent. I am dead serious (what does that even mean? "dead"?). Love you guys. :)
When I got home, the first thing I did was strip off my dirty clothing and take a long, hot shower. I stayed in there for like, 24 hours, probably. But then my skin started to get gross and pruney, so I turned off the water and put on some sweatpants. I know, yuck, but it wasn't like anyone was going to see me in them.
Edworm hadn't said anything after that. We both knew I knew his secret, and it was clear he was totally humiliated. I made a mental note to Google how guys could get pregnant. But for some reason, all my mental post-its got lost in the huge space that was my brain.
He'd taken me home then, driving wordlessly for nearly half an hour. It killed me. I mean, I was exhausted and hungover, so obviously my talking skills weren't up to par, but was it seriously possible to go that long without saying anything?
I considered throwing my dirty clothes into the washer (not that I knew how to work it) and hoping the Edworm stink would wash off. But I knew I'd be too grossed out to ever wear them again, so I got them their own special garbage bag, tied it up, and threw it out into the alley. Mr. Garbageman was going to get a nice little present.
Then, I munched on some raw celery and called up 911. Me and them were sort of buddies by now. For some reason, emergencies always happened around me.
Like that one time I accidentally, like, pushed a button on the oven and it started getting really hot and I thought it was going to catch on fire. But the stupid policeman got mad at me and told me I was a "stupid kid" and it was "supposed to do that". Um, as if.
Or the other time, last year (when I was still normal and lived in Juneau) when I was at the mall and I saw this lady actually wearing socks and flip flops. Needless to say, I screamed. But again, the person on the other end got mad when I explained the situation, and told me to "stop pranking". Aren't fashion emergencies valid?
So, maybe 911 and I had our ups and downs, but this time, my case was really legit. When they answered, I immediately explained how an ugly freak was stalking slash kidnapping me. And then I burst into tears, just for effect.
"Is your current situation one that requires immediate help?" droned the monotone on the other end. Gee, be sympathetic, will ya?
"Y-y-yes! Are you not listening to me?"
"Is this boy threatening you or holding you captive as we speak?"
"Uh, no. How else would I be calling you?"
Pause. "Miss, I'm going to transfer you."
Finally. "Okay, like, thanks!"
Why did no one ever take me seriously?
Although still upset, I allowed myself to relax into my giant bed. I watched Gossip Girl and repainted my nails hot pink – the events of the past day had caused them to chip. For once, I was glad to have some chill time, alone. Like, even my friends here in Sporks just didn't get it sometimes. Sigh. Perhaps I'd never fit in in this tiny town. I was like a beautiful tulip (that was a flower, right?) in a garden of weeds. Edworm was the wasp, hovering around me and buzzing incessantly.
I remembered back to the beginning of school, when I didn't know Edworm or any of the Sullens existed. When I'd stood at my newly-painted locker with Jessica and giggled about locker combinations, so unknowing of the terrible fate that awaited me. How I'd first seen him, staring creepily across the cafeteria at me from his group of foster-sibling buddies. And those instant, overwhelming chills I'd gotten.
I had gotten caught up in something, like, seriously messed up. Edworm was not human; that much I knew.
Barley arrived home (from who-knows-what) about an hour later. The annoying thing was, he wasn't even, like, concerned with my overnight absence! It was now three in the afternoon, and I'd left the house at six yesterday. Did no one care that I was gone?
Well, Jess and Laura (who'd gotten the flu and couldn't come to the barbecue) had texted me a lot. Ike had even called. Some aspects of our relationship were still awkward. Like, we didn't always communicate the most bestly. But I mean, we'd only been dating like a month! There was time.
Barley insisted I make pickle bread with him, but I opted to watch some more TV. At one point I remembered my mental Post-it note (yes! It stuck!) and pulled out my laptop. It was time for Stella Goose to do some research. I just had to figure out how to, well, do research.
I pulled up Google and typed in "how do men get pregnant?" After skimming some articles, I learned that apparently they'd need to have female sex organs for it to ever work. And they'd most likely have to be a hermaphrodite. Like, I didn't know what that meant, but it explained so much.
Satisfied, at least for the moment, I shut off my laptop and skipped downstairs to try a bite of the pickle bread. Yes, I spit it out immediately and ran off to brush my teeth, but for once I wasn't being mean to Barley about his cooking. See? I was really making progress with this optimism thing.
I spent the rest of the weekend doing homework.
LOL, not. Like I'd be caught dead doing homework, even by Barley. I was too smart for that crap. Though I was technically supposed to study for pretty much all of my classes, I caught up on Gossip Girl, then did a facial or three. I would've invited over Jess or someone, but I totally did not feel like dealing with the real world right then.
By the time I walked into school on Monday, I was gorgeous, radiant, and as collected as I'd ever been. I'd decided to forgive and forget Edworm for the shit he'd put me through last weekend. Though that certainly didn't mean I was forgiving him altogether. So much had happened, it seemed, since I'd last had a normal school day.
"Hey, Jess, Ang, Laur, Ike," I said, shutting my Ferrari door.
"Are you okay?" Jessica said, running up and putting her hand on my shoulder. "We were soo worried about what happened after the barbecue on Saturday."
I shrugged. "Whatevs. I've got things taken care of."
"Oh, Stella, you're so tough!" Laura said. "I can't even imagine what might've happened."
"Let's just not talk about it, kay? You don't need to sympathize with my problems unless I actually want you to. No one likes a suck up."
Laura looked a little confused. "Sorry?"
I ignored her and walked up to Ike. He looked particularly hot that day, his hair slightly messy and that sexy, boyish grin on his face. "How are you?" I asked, entwining my fingers with his. Oh, how I had missed his hotness.
"I'm good." He grinned again, though it was more awkward this time. I kissed him passionately, even though everyone else was around. Who cares? They could watch if they wanted. Everyone here was clearly jealous of me. The bell rang before we could really get into it, though. "To be continued," I whispered to Ike, shaking my butt seductively as I sauntered off to class.
My first three periods went fine. I mean, I got a 25 on the Trig test, but it was better than last test's 7 and a half, right? Maybe I could get an F+ by the end of the semester if I really stepped it up.
At lunch, I didn't even look in Edworm's direction. I sat with my popular group and chatted. It was like life was back to normal. Almost.
"Stella? Are you listening to me?" Jessica was saying.
I blinked, confused. "Like, huh?"
"The Homecoming dance! It's coming up."
Suddenly, I was interested. "Oh my god, when?"
"Two weeks from Friday."
I squealed. "That's so soon! I totes want to go." I glanced nonchalantly over at Ike. "But I don't know if that's going to happen," I stated loudly.
"Oh, come on Stella, it will for sure. You have a smokin' boyfriend. I just don't know about me."
"And me!" Angel said.
"Ditto." Laura looked bored.
"There aren't exactly many new guys in Sporks," I agreed. "But there's gotta be someone."
Jessica glanced over at the guys, then shrugged and nodded. "I guess so."
Clearly she wanted me to ask her who she liked, but I wasn't that interested in Jessica Manly's love life. Suddenly, I got a totally genius idea. "Ohmygod!" I squealed.
"What?" Laura said.
"We should all go dress shopping in Seattle this Friday! We can get our dresses, then go out to eat and see a movie."
Jessica and Laura squealed simultaneously. "Yes! That'll be so great," Jess said, and Laura nodded in agreement.
"What about you, Angel?" I asked her. "Aren't you going to come?"
"Um, well, my grandma has cancer," she said quietly. "They don't know how much time she has left, so the whole family's going up to gather and be with her this weekend."
"Oh, your pathetic old grandma will be fine," I said. "They have keyhole therapy these days, right? That'll cure any cancer your granny has."
"Keyhole?" she looked confused. "Anyway, I kind of promised my parents…"
"Well, everyone breaks promises," I assured her with a smile. "This is important."
Angel gazed at her roast beef sandwich sadly. "I suppose so," she said, her voice quiet.
Some people just needed to suck up their problems. "I'll text you guys tonight or tomorrow with the deets," I said.
Right then, the bell for fourth hour rang. I sighed. Time for biology, the one class I truly couldn't stand. For obvious reasons. Plus, we were studying something called "photosynthesis", and it made absolutely no sense. Like, the stupid textbook told me plants eat carbonated dioxide (does that mean it has bubbles, like carbonated pop?) and poop out oxygen. But plants don't have butts or mouths! So it's kind of a fail on science's part.
I inserted my nose plugs even before I entered the classroom, as usual. It had become a habit: I put them in, walk to my desk, get twenty or thirty seconds of non-Edworm stink time before Mr. Grenford yelled at me to take them out.
But today I didn't need a reminder. When I saw the chalkboard, I was so shocked my nose plugs fell right out of my nostrils. Like, humiliating much?
Today we were supposed to take our end-of-quarter test. I didn't know anything. I didn't know about my-toe-sis, or cellular rasp-er-ation, or the parts of a cell, or whatever else we had studied. Normally I wouldn't have minded, but this was the one class I'd promised myself I'd beat Edworm in. And honestly, my GPA could use a little boosting. It was currently 1.2.
"I think you dropped something."
I turned to see Edworm holding out my nose plugs. Oh, gross. "Oh yeah, I totally want those now," I said.
He shrugged. "Your loss." Then he glanced at them, smiled, and stuck them into his own nose. I gaped at him. "What, am I also supposed to tolerate the wretched stink of my lab partner?"
"You freak!" I exclaimed. "I can't even-"
The final bell rang. "Class, settle down!" Mr. Grenford said. "Stella, Edworm, quit bickering and listen to me." I turned to the front of the room, disgusted. "As you know, today you will be taking the final test for this unit. It is be worth a hundred and twenty points, so let's hope you studied hard." He smiled grimly. "You will be needing the whole hour for this, so I'll go ahead and pass them out now. Good luck."
I stared at the test booklet he'd handed out. It was like, a freaking novel. All those words and diagrams on it, they just looked like scribbles. I sighed. Well. I could only try my best. I glanced at the first problem.
Label the parts of the cell.
There was a big round thing in the center. That was clearly the stomach. The lining on the outside had to be the skin. This wasn't so bad!
What does ATP stand for, and what is it?
I considered this. ATP stands for All Trees are Plants, I wrote in, and it means that all trees have to be plants, because that's just what they are.
This worked for a little while, until one of them kind of stumped me. Like, a lot. Write the chemical equation for photosynthesis, and explain each part.
I didn't even know where to start on that one. Like, what happened to multiple choice? Then I could always just pick C, like the internet told me to.
My eyes slid over to Edworm's paper. He was working quickly, already almost twenty problems ahead of me. But I could see the question I was working on, and below it, his answer.
His handwriting was gross and tiny. Okay, it was neat, but in a gross way. Who writes in pencil, anyway? So overdone. Pink gel pens were clearly the way to go.
I squinted to focus in on the answer. He was far enough away that I could barely read it, and it wasn't like I wanted to attract attention to myself. Normally, attention = good. But what would people say when they found out I'd cheated on such a big test? Especially that I'd cheated off Edworm's.
I was able to make out what I thought was the equation. 6CO2 + 6H2O + ATP = C6H12O6 + 6O2. What Edworm's tiny definitions below it said, I could only guess. So I just invented my own, all of which involved the word "plant" (I knew it had to be relevant), and figured I'd done well enough. C-, here I come.
Thirty-five minutes later, I breathed a sigh of relief as I turned the test into Mr. Grenford's inbox. He shot me a doubtful look, and I grinned right back. Once again, the great Stella Goose had nearly escaped disaster. I slid back into my seat, pulling out my phone and mirror. Students around me were still scribbling away or staring off into space (or doing the extra credit worksheet, in dorky Eddy's case). Class would end in – I checked my phone – eight minutes.
Suddenly, I felt something nudge my elbow. A folded up slip of paper. It could only have come from Edworm, though he was evidently focused on whatever "Introduction to Genetics" could possibly mean. Stupid multisyllable words.
I unfolded the paper, rolling my eyes. But then I read it, and let out a horrified, dramatic gasp.
I saw what you did.
Everyone turned to look at me, including Mr. Grenford. Not my fault I was naturally popular! I gave them a nervous giggle and a wave, then popped the top off one of my pink pens and scribbled back, I don't know what you're talking about, freak. I slid it back over to him.
Half a minute passed. Another elbow nudge. You cheated off my test. Problem 12. I can prove it.
So, you'll get a zero if Mr. Grenford finds out.
But he's not going to.
He will, if you don't do what I say.
My heart sped up. Oh, God. Just what I needed – another piece of secret information Edworm could use as blackmail.
This was spiraling further and further out of control. It was easily the most dramatic thing that had, like, ever happened to me! I could only hope something good would happen soon. I mean, karma was totally on my side.
The bell rang then, signaling passing time. I had P.E. next, and for once it almost seemed inviting. I stood up, brushed off my skirt, and walked to the door as quickly as my three-inch pumps would carry me.
But Edworm was already there, holding the door open. A mocking smirk played on his face. He hadn't even been out of his seat when I'd walked away. I pretended not to notice him, striding confidently through into the hallway.
I just couldn't get him out of my head.
And that was not a good thing.