When Myrtle is young, she was good at making friends, and keeping them. She's queen of her own little clique. She's forceful and confident and sometimes mean, yeah, but only to people she and the others had decided deserved it.
But she and her friends keep getting older, keep moving up in school, keep meeting new people. One day the girl known for making fun of people who are different realizes she's different. Most of her classmates are native; they have a shared heritage, culture, language. All Myrtle has is an absent father and a mother who tries way too hard. Eventually Myrtle realizes the downside of choosing friends just as likely as her to exclude someone for not fitting in.
She never quite recovers after that. It's not like she's a total social outcast, but she doesn't really fit in with most of the kids she knows. It doesn't help that she doesn't become less abrasive with age. She was probably never easy to be around in the first place (Is it me? Is there something wrong with me? she thinks sometimes), but she doesn't know how to change who she is. By the time high school rolls around, she's practically antisocial.
At least she can still console herself that if she doesn't quite fit in, Lilo Pelekai is still widely regarded as the class weirdo. Although Lilo, for some strange reason, is never anything but nice to Myrtle. These days they're only acquaintances at best, but when Myrtle sees Lilo she's always smiling and happy. She can be, Myrtle figures, with her big weird extended family and her talking alien dog. Good for her or whatever. Still, nice or no, she can only take so much weirdness, and she doesn't need another thing to make her stick out, so Myrtle tries to avoid Lilo when she can.
Sometimes, it's surprisingly difficult to do.
It's just her bad luck that Lilo's sitting on the sidewalk in front of the grocery store. Stitch is asleep next to her, which, if he were a regular dog, means he would probably be curled up into an adorable little ball. But he's not, so he's on his back, limbs splayed, mouth open and tongue hanging out, snoring obnoxiously.
Lilo looks up as Myrtle approaches. "Aloha!" she says cheerfully, plucking at the strings of her guitar.
Myrtle stops and sets one hand on her hip. "Hey," she says, biting back anything else that might come to her throat. She doesn't have enough venom for a fight, or enough patience for a real conversation. But it'd be rude (or something) to just walk by.
Lilo's totally ignoring her though, strumming something on that guitar and watching the passers-by. Well! Talk about rude! "What are you doing?" Myrtle finally asks. She didn't actually mean for it to sound so disdainful, but whatever.
She means 'What are you doing here?' so of course Lilo misinterprets it. She starts strumming more clearly on the guitar, then, much to Myrtle's horror, opens her mouth and begins singing. "Are you lonesome tonight?" Lilo croons in an exaggeratedly masculine voice. "Do you miss me tonight? Are you sorry we drifted apart?"
"Oh my god!" Myrtle moans, because Lilo looks so utterly ridiculous right now as to defy explanation, singing music their grandparents probably listened to next to her blue alien dog. "What on Earth is that? You have the absolutely worst taste in music."
Lilo stops, and for just a second Myrtle thinks the other girl's actually listening to her. Then Lilo cocks her head and says, "Sorry. Did you want something more upbeat?" Soon she's strumming again, singing, "Ain't no mountain high enough! Ain't no valley low enough!"
"Ugh! Never mind!" Myrtle turns and stalks away. She'll pick up the milk and eggs later. "Maybe you could try learning some music from this century!" she calls over her shoulder as she goes.
By the time she's made it back to the store, she's prepared a couple distractions to maybe get Lilo to stop singing that ancient crap. The sidewalk in front of the store is empty, however, so it appears her carefully prepared barbs weren't needed after all. Oh well, maybe next time.
Myrtle should have just ignored Lilo that day at the grocery store, because after that Lilo develops a rather annoying habit of turning up just where Myrtle doesn't want her to be - namely, anywhere Myrtle is. She's always there, usually looking just slightly out of it, and usually acting just weird enough to grate Myrtle's nerves, but not enough to justify snapping at her in public. She doesn't want people to think they're both crazy, after all.
But maybe, Myrtle thinks one day while she's sitting alone on a bench and Lilo's drawing stop signs in the dirt to see who actually stops, she's not the best judge of what's normal anymore. There's still that refrain of Maybe it's me, maybe there's something wrong with me in the back of her head. Lilo doesn't have any more friends than Myrtle does, but at least she looks happy.
Apparently satisfied with messing with the tourists, Lilo plops down next to Myrtle and rests her arms carelessly on the back of the bench. "Hey, can I have some soda?" she asks.
Myrtle stares at her for a minute incredulously, until she realizes Lilo must be asking for a drink of Myrtle's sode. "No way! You've probably got germs!"
Lilo sighs and tilts her head back. "Hypochondriac..." she mutters.
"Go get your own."
Lilo screws her face in concentration. "What we need now...is a soda fairy."
Myrtle smacks herself on the forehead. "Oh my god. Do you hear the things that you say? I mean, really?"
Lilo shrugs. "Sure," she says, "but I don't always listen."
"Why are you even here?" Myrtle asks almost under her breath, not really expecting an answer.
"'Here' is as valid a place to be as anywhere else, don't you think? And it's way more appropriate than, say, Norway."
"No!" God, she should have expected an answer like that. "I mean, why are you here-" with me? At the last instant Myrtle realizes what she's asking, and bites back the end of the question. She needs a different tact. Something less pathetic sounding. "I mean," she tries again, "we're not really friends. So why don't you go do something else?"
"Like what?" Lilo asks, and Myrtle rolls her eyes.
"Don't you remember how we used to fight all the time?" she says, almost bitterly. "Is that ringing a bell? I don't get-aren't you mad about that? I mean, how I..." She trails off. Lilo just looks at her with the most deceptively innocent expression ever, and Myrtle glares back. She's not about to go listing every slight they both know exists just for the other girl's amusement.
Lilo finally shrugs. "I've never found anger to be a productive emotion," she says, sounding much too clinical and put together. "Some people find it cathartic, but I've never been able to express it in a positive way. In that case it doesn't seem healthy to indulge in it, you know? That's what my psychologist says."
"You have a psychologist?" Myrtle asks, both surprised and not. She can't imagine anyone who needs one more, and who would look more out of place in a clinical doctor's office.
Lilo blinks at Myrtle. Then she lifts her hands in front of her, palms out, thumbs and index fingers extended. "Hey, you know how people say you can tell your left from your right by seeing which hand makes an 'L?' What if your hands were backwards?" She turns her right hand so the palm faces her. "The wrong one might look like the L! Then you'd still be confused."
"Oh my god!" Myrtle rolls her eyes, hard, then rubs her face with her hands for good measure. When she looks up, Lilo has her hands pressed upside-down against her face, the fingers forming a mask. Myrtle scoffs and decides leaving is the best course of action. Why she ever thought she could talk to this crazy girl is beyond her.
As she's walking away, when Lilo's almost out of her hearing range, Myrtle just barely hears the other girl giggling. For the first time, it occurs to her that Lilo just might be messing with her.
One day, for reasons Myrtle doesn't quite understand, Lilo calls and invites her over. For reasons she really doesn't understand, she says yes.
She realizes when Nani greets her with a cool, "Oh, you're here," that she still doesn't like Myrtle very much. Which kind of makes sense, but also strikes her as kind of dumb. If Lilo's not mad, what's Nani getting all pissy for? But then Lilo bounds down the stairs, and Nani gets distracted by her own rugrat, and Myrtle doesn't really see her after that.
Myrtle's sitting on Lilo's bed, flipping through a magazine while Lilo and Stitch argue over the proper way to restring her guitar. "I thought there was going to be an article about Bruno Mars in here," she says.
"Oh, Stitch probably ate that," Lilo says offhandedly. "Really, I wouldn't trust the magazines lying around this place. Or the newspaper, either. No, look, that's the D-string. Here."
Myrtle gives up and tosses the magazine onto the bed. "So what did you want to do?"
Lilo shrugs, fiddling with the tuning pegs. "I dunno. I kind of thought 'hanging out' wasn't about doing anything in particular."
"We have to do something, don't we?"
Lilo shrugged again, and Myrtle sighed. What was with her? Usually she was brimming with energy. Lilo plucks at the new strings almost sullenly. Myrtle's seriously starting to get weirded out, and she's just about to suggest they head to the beach when Lilo looks up and says, "Do you really think my music is lame?"
Myrtle opens her mouth, closes it, thinks for a minute, then says, "What?" Lilo always seems so proud of her ancient music. What did she care what Myrtle thought? But she's looking up at Myrtle with an oddly closed expression, and it makes Myrtle think over what she's going to say carefully. "Your music is...well, it's old," she admits. "I don't get why you listen to it. But, I guess, a lot of people used to like it? So maybe it can't be completely lame?"
"It's classic," Lilo says with something like the spark Myrtle usually expects from her. "You can't just dismiss the classics."
Myrtle manages to stop herself from rolling her eyes. "Yeah, fine, but you could learn some new stuff too, I guess. Since you're good at playing the 'classics,' you'd probably be good at that too."
"Like what?" Lilo looks curious now. Her face is as bright and open as it ever is, and Myrtle's oddly relieved.
"Like...ooh! You should learn to play 'Just the Way You Are.' I love that song." That would actually be totally sweet, Myrtle realizes, getting excited.
Lilo tilts her head. "I've heard that song. I can't remember exactly how it goes though."
"Let's look it up!" Myrtle hops on Lilo's computer. "Maybe someone's done the sheet music, and you can use that."
"Ooh! Go to the acoustic version," Lilo said, leaning over Myrtle's shoulder and pointing. "That's probably what we're looking for."
Myrtle doesn't realize how much time has passed until Nani calls them for dinner. By that point Lilo's got a lot of the song down, and she makes Myrtle sing along while she plays for Nani and David. Myrtle doesn't exactly sing in front of a lot of crowds, but she's so flush with their success that she isn't even embarrassed. By the time she leaves, Stitch is dancing, Lilo's grinning wildly, and even Nani gives her a tight smile. It's more fun than she's had in a while.
It says a lot that the first time Myrtle calls Lilo to hang out, it doesn't occur to her to think, Oh my god, I'm actually seeking out Lilo to spend time with, until the phone is already ringing. It says even more that that thought doesn't actually deter her in the slightest. Myrtle's kind of a brat, but she's not stupid. She can recognize friendship when it's being offered to her, and maybe, this time, she can give something back too.
Nani answers, but she sounds incredibly distracted, and it seems to take forever for Lilo to pick up the phone. When she finally does, she very enthusiastically agrees to go shopping, and promises that Stitch will behave himself. Right, like that ever sticks. Still, they make plans to meet.
An hour later they're looking through clothing racks - or more specifically, Myrtle's looking through clothing racks, Lilo's holding an assortment of clothes and looking around at everything, and Stitch has disappeared into the women's lingerie for the third time since they got there. Myrtle pulls out a skirt and holds it speculatively up to Lilo, who obligingly moves the clothes she's holding out of the way and lets Myrtle take a good look.
"This would be cute," she says.
Lilo looks down and shrugs. "I don't know if it's me."
Stitch pops out of a nearby rack, and Myrtle doesn't even flinch. He takes one look at the skirt (a mini, technically, but lots of girls their age wear them), then rips it out of Myrtle's hands and tosses it over his shoulder. "Don't dress for boys," he tells Lilo in his weird, garbled voice, and disappears again.
Lilo snickers, and Myrtle shakes her head. "I don't know what's weirder," she says, "that your dog is worried about your chastity, or that he's a closet underwear pervert."
"Come on," Lilo says, adjusting the clothing in her arms. "He's not a pervert. He just likes making costumes out of it."
"Oh, right, of course. How could that possibly be perverted?"
Lilo giggles. Myrtle pulls out another dress and holds it towards Lilo, who immediately shakes her head. "No way."
"What? It's cute."
"Yeah, but I make it a habit to only wear clothes I can swim in if I have to, and that thing would fall to pieces in the water." Myrtle groans. "What?" Lilo says indignantly. "Stitch can't swim and we live on an island. Sometimes things happen. I like to be prepared."
"Fine," Myrtle says, putting the dress back. "But somehow I think those jeans would get pretty heavy if they were waterlogged."
"Yeah, but I can get them off in like half a second, seriously. Ooh! Time me!"
"No!" Myrtle says immediately, before she can even process what Lilo's talking about. "What? No!" Lilo's already thrown the stuff she was holding across a rack, and has her hands on her waistband. "Oh my god! You are insane!"
"No, it's cool, I'm wearing a bathing suit! Come on!" Lilo looks so darn excited, and Myrtle finds herself torn between embarrassment and amusement. Much to her surprise, she realizes the amusement is winning.
She glances around to make sure no one is really paying them any mind, then sighs. "One one-th - okay, that was fast."
Lilo beams at her, hands planted triumphantly on her hips and blue jeans crumpled on the ground in front of her. "Told ya."
"Fine, you told me. Now please put your pants back on." She will not laugh, Myrtle tells herself. That would only encourage Lilo. She does, however, pull a pair of capris off the rack. "Here. Drawstring. Even faster than a zipper."
Before Lilo can take the capris from her, they hear someone yelling, "Hey! Stay out of that pantyhose, you little - where are you going? Get back here!" followed by crashing.
Lilo and Myrtle blink at each other. "So...dressing room?" Myrtle says.
"You're still weird, Lilo," Myrtle says.
Lilo, who is flipping through some old records, doesn't bother to look up at her, but she does pump her fist and mutter "Yes!" under her breath.
Myrtle watches her for a moment, then shrugs. "Maybe not as weird as you used to be though."
"I'll just have to try harder."
"You used to be psychotic. Remember when you used to bite me all the time?"
"It wasn't all the time," Lilo says, and pushes the box of records away.
"Often enough." Myrtle rests her head on her hand and just stares at the other girl, because she's trying to figure out when exactly Lilo went from weird and angry to weird but happy. The girl who used to default to physical violence somehow managed to grow up less pissy than most of the girls Myrtle knows.
Lilo crawls across the floor to sit next to Myrtle, leaning against the couch. They started the afternoon on the couch, and Myrtle can't quite remember when they moved to the floor, but whatever. "That was like ten years ago, geez. Get over it."
"It was very traumatic," Myrtle sniffs, crossing her arms. "I may never get over it."
"Ya pansy. Carry a grudge much?" Lilo suddenly smirks, and Myrtle doesn't trust that a bit. "Or are you just whining because I used to pay you attention, but then I stopped?" The smirk has widened into a smile, and Myrtle notices how well it shows off her teeth. She realizes what Lilo's about to do immediately before the other girl lunges.
Myrtle barely has time to bring her hands up and grab Lilo's arms as the other girl throws herself at Myrtle, growling and snapping. The force pushes Myrtle to the floor, Lilo leaning over her. "Oh my god!" she shrieks, doing her best to push Lilo away while keeping her hands away from those teeth. "What is wrong with you?"
Nani walks into the living room, and immediately stops when she sees the two girls wrestling on the floor. "What are you two doing?" she asks, almost reluctantly.
"She's trying to bite me!" Myrtle cries, still struggling.
"She wanted me to!" Lilo protested.
"What? You're deranged, why would I want that?"
"Lilo!" Nani says sharply. "We don't bite!"
Lilo sighs but abandons her assault and lets herself fall backwards (but not off of Myrtle). Myrtle wiggles and shoves until she's free, and gives Lilo a good glare. Nani takes one more long look at them, and leaves.
"Seriously!" Myrtle almost spits, thoroughly pissed. "You can't just do that."
"You're such a drama queen," Lilo says dismissively, smoothing her hair as nonchalantly as you please. "I wasn't really going to bite you, geez."
"I was just proving a point."
"That you're a total freak?"
"Yeah, actually," Lilo says with a smile, and Myrtle literally throws her hands into the air. Of course that's the point she was proving. "And that you apparently still think I'm as weird as ever, if you think I'm just going to bite you for no reason."
Myrtle glares at her. "Seriously? You're serious. Look, if you act crazy, I'm going to think you're crazy! Cause and effect!"
Lilo laughs and slings her arm around Myrtle's shoulder. "That's the way I like it."
"Of course it is. If I promise to never, ever imply you might in any way be slightly normal, do you promise not to bite me anymore?"
Myrtle gets her first sunburn in years because she forgets to reapply her sunscreen on Lilo's nephew's birthday party. She indulges Lilo's attempt (and horrible failure) to braid her hair Pippi Longstocking style. She gets used to Stitch acting like a pet one minute and standing up and speaking the next. She teaches Lilo to apply makeup, get frighteningly airsick in Lilo's spaceship, and spends more than one afternoon co-babysitting a five-year-old. When Lilo flops down on Myrtle's bed and lets her head hang upside-down off the edge, Myrtle doesn't sneer or tell her to sit like a normal person. She does, however, chuck a balled up piece of paper at her when Lilo starts teasing her about a boy at the beach. Lilo laughs, her long, dark hair brushing the ground as she shakes.
Somehow, it's the most normal thing in the world.