A/N: I'M BACK GUYS! Again, sorry for the marathon delays, there's really no excuse aside from sheer business and the ever-present writer's block. I wanted to get this up last night, but FF was being annoying :P Just want to say a big thank you to everyone who's reviewed/stuck with his story and put up with my super-lame updating. Not much else to say here, except to enjoy!


McKayla

"So, McKayla, how's life?"

Zach's over for dinner again, and has started his timely round of 'general interest' questions. "How's life" is usually first, followed by "What new activities are you doing" and "How is school?"

"Um, pretty good," I reply, listlessly twirling my spaghetti around my fork. I refuse to meet his gaze and let on that I have just told a flat-out lie. Because, in fact, life is anything but 'pretty good' right now.

Things have been pretty strained since the big blowup at book club two weeks ago. Sure, Evan, Amy, Diana and Kate are all still friends, but they always seem to wander around looking lost, all wounded looks and sad whispers. Yeah, 'cause they have it SO hard. Poor Amy doesn't get to skate with her best friend anymore and they both got grounded for two weeks. Boo-hoo.

Meanwhile, I on the other hand am getting worried. Zach and my mother have been going out for nearly six months now. SIX MONTHS! That sounds like nothing, Mom married Dad five months after they started dating. So Mom's already passed engagement time, and who knows what's going to happen next?

Don't be confused, there's nothing inherently wrong with Zach. He's really nice and friendly, he's respectful and even came to Trisha's ballet recital (and even applauded, which took guts because it was a terrible show). But…he's not my father.

I never really knew my dad all that well, since he left when I was littler. But, he's still my dad, through and through, and I can't see Zach taking his place.

When dinner's over, I retreat to my room while Zach and my mom say their goodbyes. I try to ignore the sound of kissing that I hear right before the door closes. And the fact that Zach calls goodbye to me, too, before he leaves.

Usually, my mom tries to come "talk" to me after she and Zach have a date, but not tonight, thankfully. All she ever does is apologize to me for all the confusion and asks me how I feel about it all. I always just shrug. Like saying what I really think would change Mom's mind.

I try to concentrate on my homework, but it's not use. My mind is in overdrive, what with Zach and all that's going on with the book club. The only ones I have anymore are Alberta and Trixie, even though they're starting to bother me more and more. They won't shut up about me being in the Mother-Daughter Book Club, even though I tell them every single day that it wasn't my idea and I would quit if I could. But they don't listen.

Speaking of book club…

Shoving my homework aside, I pull Little Women out of my backpack. Even though I still hate book club, I don't mindthe book. As a matter of fact, I actually really like it. All the girls are really original and their adventures make me laugh and cry. Jo used to be my favorite, but lately, I like Beth. She's so quiet, and often overlooked, a little like me.

Right now, we're getting near the end. According to the mothers, we're moving a lot faster than they did when they read the book. Beth's getting sick, and I know she's going to die. We all do, but no one wants to say it. Even though she's only a book character, it's like she's real to us.

Real to me.

The next day at school, I come into class to find Alberta and Trixie giggling uncontrollably in the back. "What's up with you guys?" I ask as I go to join them, slinging my backpack over the back of my chair.

Alberta gives me a sly smile, her bright blue eyes narrowed. "Revenge. That's what." Trixie bursts into laughter again.

I have a feeling I knew what they were talking about. "You mean…" I glance at Diana, who has just come into the room and is unpacking her bag, her back to us.

Alberta nods. "Exactly. If she wants to mess with me, she has to face the consequences."

Listening to the edge in Alberta's voice, I can't help but feel uneasy. "So, uh…what are you going to do?"

Alberta turns to Trixie, who stops giggling long enough to whisper the plan. "Alberta's been telling everyone that Diana has a crush on Trevor Lyons." She and Alberta dissolve back into fits of laughter.

"That geeky kid?" For some reason, I feel nervous. "He's been in love with Diana forever now."

"Exactly," Alberta hisses. "At least Trevor gets what he wants from this situation. And Alex will definitely not talk to Diana again. It's a win-win."

For who? I want to ask, but of course I don't. Because I already know.

Now I'm really nervous. "So, when is she going to find out?" I ask, sitting down to calm the uncertain quake in my stomach.

Alberta shrugs. "I don't know. It's all over the school, so she'll most likely know by lunch."

As the day progresses, however, it's obvious that Diana's not catching on. A ton of people give her weird looks in the hallway, but all she does is act confused. No one's telling her what's up. And with each passing hour, I get more nervous.

I don't even understand why. Diana and I have never been friends – in fact, we've been anything but since she basically insulted me at book club. But, something about this just feels really, really wrong.

Two months ago, I don't think I would have felt this way. I probably would have come up with the plan itself. But…

Maybe it's because of Little Women. Or Zach and Mom. Or the fact that Alberta's not becoming so cool anymore, just obnoxious. But whatever it is, I just know that this is not going to end well. For Diana, because she's going to be the most humiliated she's ever been.

And for me, because I'm probably going to do something stupid.

I don't have long to wait. Alberta quickly gets bored with Diana's lack of humiliation and decides to just explain it all to her personally.

Diana rounds the corner with the other book club girls, all of them talking with their heads bent. Knowing them, it was probably about baking or books or something.

But as I get closer, I hear Amy say, "…I wish that I could see it, but my mom's banned me from the rink." Unbelievable! They're STILL talking about the skating incident?

Alberta rounds on Diana the minute she's in earshot. "Hey, Diana," Alberta coos, her voice dripping with poison. Diana freezes in her tracks, the others coming up short behind her. She looks like a deer locked in headlights, and Alberta notices.

"So, I heard a rumor going around that somebody has a not-so-little crush on a certain Trevor Lyons?" Alberta's in full mean-queen-bee mode now, staring Diana down like her eyes could shoot daggers. I've never seen her this upset over anyone.

But it's not just anyone. It's all over Alex, who paid attention to Diana and not Alberta.

Diana's face goes brick red, and she almost drops her books. "What? Wh-where did you hear that?" She stutters. Amy, Kate, and Evan all look at each other, shocked. Then I see Evan glance at Alberta, and whisper something to Kate, who nods. They know what's up.

Meanwhile, Alberta's still holding Diana hostage. "Oh, come one, Diana. The whole school's talking about it. And beside, you two would make such a perfect match. The book club freak and the science geek. What could be better?"

By now, a small crowd has assembled around Alberta and Diana, and for some reason I think of those Roman coliseums, the ones where the lions would be set free to devour the martyrs for the enjoyment of the spectators.

"I don't know what you're talking about, Alberta. Just leave me alone," Diana mumbles, voice shaking. She looks like she might cry. To add salt to the wound, Alex has showed up, watching Alberta with confusion. Diana looks like she's ready to cry.

"Of course you do, Diana! Fess up, you like Trevor Lyons. And we all know he likes you. In fact, why don't we find him and you can tell him yourself?"

"STOP!"

Silence falls, almost deafening, as everyone turns to see who just shouted. As their eyes fall on me, I feel my face get hot. Alberta arches an eyebrow, stepping towards me. "What?" she hisses, the dominance in her voice fading. "What's the big deal, here, McKayla? It's just Diana. It's just a joke."

"Yeah, well," I say anticlimactically, straddling the straps of my backpack for support. "It's not funny. Just leave her alone, okay?"

"You've got to be kidding me!" Alberta gets in my face all of a sudden, losing her cool. "Whose side are you on here, anyway?"

"I'm…not on anyone's side right now," I start weakly. "I'm just saying, it's really not that big of a deal, you know?"

"Listen to me, McKayla," Alberta lowers her voice, speaking straight to me. "I don't know what you're talking about, but you're already on thin ice with me right now, okay? So just – "

"Alberta, everyone knows that you're just jealous of Diana because Alex likes her better than you!" The words are out of my mouth before I could stop them, loud and harsh as a gunshot. All the confusion and irritation and anger from the past few months have finally gotten the better of me. The whole hallway goes silent in that instant, and Alberta's mouth drops open.

"What did you say?" She says through gritted teeth. For an instant, I want to take it back, apologize to her, grovel for forgiveness. But then, I look at Diana, whose face is frozen. She looks confused, but grateful. Extremely grateful.

I take a deep breath, staring at Alberta squarely in the eye. "I said that everyone knows you're just jealous of Diana because Alex likes her better than you. So just leave her alone, okay? Just leave everyone alone."

Alberta gives me another funny look, then shakes her head. "That was your last chance, McKayla. You blew it. Have fun trying to make friends with the losers."

"Don't worry, I will," I murmur as she flounces away, Trixie hurrying in her wake, but I'm not sure if I'm serious about that.

The bell rings, signaling the end of lunch, and everyone scatters to get their books. I stay where I am, still trying to sort out what just happened. So…I guess I'm not friends with Alberta anymore? Somehow, the sting is less painful than I expected. Yet at the same time, I have a horrible sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach – just like that, I'm totally without friends. No doubt Alberta will try to turn her talons to me next, but there's not much she can do – I insulted her in front of the majority of the grade, and now they all know about Alberta's crush on Alex. That, and she's jealous of Diana.

With a sigh, I turn on my heel and start to head off to Social Studies, when a voice stops me.

"Hey, McKayla,"

I turn around, and am surprised to see Diana walking towards me, the other members of the Mother Daughter Book Club in tow. She looks as uncomfortable as I feel.

"I just wanted to say…thank you. A lot," She says, relief evident in her voice. "I know it was hard for you, since Alberta's your friend and all, and…"

"It's nothing," I say quickly, though I'm secretly pleased. It's not like I'm planning on becoming BFFs with them anytime soon, but it was nice of Diana to at least extend herself a little.

"No, really, I just…" Diana pauses, thinking of something else to say. She looks so uncomfortable right then, that I decide to take the pressure off of her and do a second nice thing for her.

"I'm sorry about the whole book club blow up, too," I say. "It wasn't right."

Diana looks a little shocked, but smiles. "Yeah, I'm sorry too." She says meekly. Kate, Evan, and Amy smile at me too, and I return it, tentatively.

"Anyway," I say awkwardly, checking my watch as means of distraction. "I gotta get to class, but.."

"See you at book club?" Evan pipes up. I grin at her, suddenly feeling lighter than I have in a long time.

"Definitely," I reply.


A/N: Okay, so there you go...I'm actually going to start (bumbumBUM) wrapping this story up soon...I was only envisioning about 15 chapters for the whole thing from the start, so just to warn you. ALSO, I have NOT read Home for the Holidays yet, but I will! Soon! I hope! Anyway, special thanks to schoolcandyshoppe and kgorange for kind words of encouragement and motivation through the past couple of chapters :) And yeah, again, I'm so sorry...hopefully, it will never get this bad again. Au revoir!