Disclaimer: I don't own The Latest Buzz or any of the characters in this story except Gabrielle.
A/N: All POVs are in the third person.
Amanda woke up with a start.
DJ's voice was echoing...from the elevator. And she was only on the first floor! Ding! Second floor. Amanda lifted her head off of her desk and threw a weary glance towards the elevator, ignoring the concerned and slightly amused looks that the rest of Teen Buzz were giving her. She knew why. Amanda was at an all time low. On a regular day, Amanda wouldn't have set foot outside looking like this. If she was in her right mind, the minute she had stepped into Buzz, she would have made a beeline for the closet and stayed there for the rest of the day hiding her shame. But obviously, it wasn't a regular day and Amanda wasn't in her right mind. She was exhausted. She hadn't gotten a wink of sleep in the last couple of days. Now Amanda Pierce was…well, a Pierce. A primped and poised perfectionist. She had a reputation to maintain. But after two days straight with no sleep, it turned out that Amanda cared less about her reputation than she cared about Michael's obsession with Kelly Clarkson.
The first two days without sleep were fine. Amanda had worn a new silk pink dress with a black jacket, gold heels, and her favorite butterfly earrings on the first day. On the second day, Amanda had worn a light brown cashmere sweater that exposed the tops of her shoulders and had sleeves that stopped right at her elbows; custom made Figarucci jeans, some dark-brown ankle high YSL boots, and gold hoop earrings. On the third she'd thrown on a white tank top, and a lavender sweat suit with some random black converse that she'd found. Then, she'd hastily put her hair up in one with a tacky rubber band. No makeup. Whatsoever. Not even a little lip gloss. And the fourth day had been such a blur that she couldn't even recall what she'd worn. Today she was sporting a hideous green turtleneck sweater that had emerged when she'd accidentally shoved her hand into the reject closet (she couldn't exactly burn the clothes given to her by fashion senseless family members like she'd wanted to), beige capris, with grey flip flops. Basically, she was a mess.
Just then, the elevator doors opened, revealing a very angry DJ. She stepped out of the elevator and gave Amanda "the look". What was the look? Well. The look was DJ's trademark glare. So named because nobody in the office could find words to properly describe it. It was a look that sent chills down your spine. It didn't kill, but it could make you wish you were dead. Amanda huffed, blowing strands of hair from her face in the process. She was sleepy. Her mind was too cloudy to put the scattered pieces of the puzzle together, to figure out just what she had done to make DJ mad. Maybe she'd just wing it and see how that worked out for her. As expected, DJ marched over to Amanda's desk, still carrying her half eaten muffin from The Blurb and a stack of paper that Amanda hadn't noticed before.
"Amanda!" DJ hissed. She set down her muffin, reached into her stack and pulled out a single sheet of light pink paper. "What is this supposed to be?"
"Um…a piece of paper?" Amanda yawned.
"Funny. Amanda, see me in my office. Now."
Well, this can't be good.
"Amanda," DJ started once they'd reached her office and shut the door. "Seeing as you can't seem to remember…" she held up the pink sheet of paper again and continued. "This is what is supposed to be your article's pitch for next week's issue of Teen Buzz. Do you want to know what it is instead?"
Amanda shrugged. She wasn't so sure that she did, but she had a feeling DJ was going to tell her anyway.
"This is a page-full of gibberish!" DJ thrust the paper in Amanda's face.
Amanda took the paper from DJ and looked over it. She wasn't joking. It really was a page of gibberish. It was like someone had randomly run their hand over a keyboard. Amanda frowned and tried to recall what had happened when she'd written this. It was on Tuesday, right after her first night without sleep.
She had marched straight over to her desk when the elevator doors opened, ready to get to work. An amazing idea for her article had popped into her head during class (if only she could remember what it was now) , and she had wanted to prepare an awesome pitch to convince DJ then, so that she could have her article finished and printed the very next day. VERY un-Amandaish of her, but hey, every girl has her day right? Anyway…when she reached her desk, it had all went downhill from there. As soon as she'd sat down in her chair, her oh-so-comfy chair…she'd started to feel a little funny. Not ha-ha funny, more like…weird funny. Her eyelids felt heavy and more than once her head drooped and she jerked it up abruptly, not remembering when her head had started drooping in the first place. During one of these moments, she jerked her head up to meet a page full of words on her laptop screen, or so she thought. Assuming that somewhere along the line she'd managed to finish her pitch, she hit print and placed the paper on DJ's pitch tray without a second thought. Then, she packed up her stuff and practically raced to the elevator, overly eager to get home and in bed.
"Amanda? Yoo-hoo! Earth to Amanda?" DJ said in annoyance.
"Amanda did you hear a word I just said?"
DJ sighed and pinched the bridge of her nose. After a long pause she spoke. "Amanda, you've been acting…well, you haven't exactly been yourself lately. Is there something you want to talk about?"
"No, not really."
DJ stared at her. "Are you sure?"
Amanda put her hands over her face, suddenly miserable.
"I don't know what to do..." she groaned. "I've tried everything DJ! EVERYTHING. I feel like ripping my hair out!" she gripped her hair, which had become so frizzy it could pass for a bird's nest.
"Amanda, just calm down, and then tell me what's going on," DJ said with a worried face.
"I haven't slept in days," she half-sobbed. "I'm exhausted, and no matter how hard I try I can't fall asleep! I even counted sheep. Nothing works."
DJ looked relieved. "Take it easy Amanda. You're a teenager. It's probably just a case of stress. Pressure from school and stuff you know? What you need is some relaxation time. Time to put your feet up and forget your worries for a while. Listen to some music or something. Before you know it, you'll be sleeping like a baby."
"Absolutely! Listen why don't you go home for the rest of the day? You can e-mail me a new pitch after you get a nice rest today."
Amanda smiled. "Thanks DJ." She said getting up to leave.
"No problem. Chillax. Take a chill pill! Hakuna Matat-"
"Sorry. I take it people don't say that anymore?"
Amanda shook her head. "Not the ones living in the 21st century."
Amanda exited DJ's office, closed the door behind her, and quickly strode off to her desk, not even glancing to the side once. She didn't have to. She had been a part of Teen Buzz long enough to know that Noah, Rebecca, Michael and Wilder were all assuming their most casual poses, as if they hadn't all just had their ears pressed against DJ's door, trying to hear things that were none of their business. At the moment, all she was concerned about was getting out of that office, and into her room, where she could hopefully, as Wilder would say, "catch some z's". She grabbed her things off of her desk and practically darted for the elevator. As soon as the doors opened she slid inside and pressed button for the first floor repeatedly, eager to get out of the building as soon as possible. Then, the elevator doors slid closed, and Amanda disappeared behind them. There was an uncomfortable silence in the room for a few minutes as everyone processed what had just happened.
Later, the gang (with the exception of Amanda) was seated in The Blurb after a relatively uneventful day at work. Rebecca however was being unusually quiet. Naturally, Noah was the first one to notice.
"All right R, I'll bite. What's up?" Noah asked, catching Michael and Wilder's attention.
Rebecca blinked. "Up?" she said.
"Yeah," Noah responded slowly. "You've been acting all spacey since we got here."
Rebecca gaped at him for a moment. "What's up?" she repeated finally. "How can you guys be joking around and ignoring that something's clearly wrong?"
"What's wrong?" Michael asked.
"Amanda," she stressed, referring to the conversation they'd "overheard" in DJ's office, followed by Amanda's less than graceful exit.
"Where?" Wilder swiveled his head this way and that, in search for Amanda.
"No, she's not- I mean-," Rebecca sighed. "In case you guys haven't noticed, Amanda hasn't exactly been herself lately."
"You can say that again," Michael said, making Noah snicker.
Rebecca picked up Wilder's empty smoothie cup, and threw it across the table in frustration, aiming for Michael's head. Needless to say…it missed. But she'd gotten her point across. When Rebecca started throwing things, she meant business.
"As I was saying, Amanda's been really down. So I think that we should go cheer her up."
"You mean...go t-to her house?" Wilder asked, eyes wide.
"Well yeah…that's where she went." Rebecca thought Wilder's reaction was weird, but she didn't have much time to think about it before Michael sprang out of his seat as if it were placed over a fire, knocking it over in the process.
"To her house? Uh-I can't!" Michael said randomly.
"And why can't you?" Rebecca questioned, eyeing him with suspicion.
"Because…I have plans. I just can't!" He replied a little louder than necessary.
A day had yet to come, when Michael could successfully lie to Rebecca.
"Well," Michael said awkwardly under the collective stares of Noah, Wilder, and Rebecca. "I'll just be going then."
Michael circled around the table and started to walk off. Rebecca was just about to head him off, when good old Noah stuck his foot in Michael's way, and sent him crashing to the floor. In a desperate attempt to stop himself from landing flat on his face, he flung his arms around wildly to grab something to hold him up. All this resulted in were napkins and food being knocked over, capturing the attention of everyone in The Blurb. The entire restaurant burst into laughter, all except for Michael and Rebecca of course.
"What's that?" Rebecca asked, once the laughter had died down.
Everyone at the table followed Rebecca's gaze to some multi-colored papers protruding from Michael's pocket. Michael's eyes widened when he realized the papers were visible, and immediately scrambled off of the floor, trying to stuff the papers back into his pocket at the same time. Rebecca tackled him to the ground in an effort to wrestle them away from his grasp. Noah slouched down as low as he possibly could in his seat, for fear that if he tried to leave now, Rebecca would try to jump him next.
"This is why I don't go places with you guys," he groaned.
"Aha!" Rebecca shouted triumphantly, holding the papers in the air.
Rebecca's face flushed when she realized that she had caused a scene and was now the center of attention of the restaurant. She got up slowly and sank back into her seat, and Michael slowly followed suit.
"Michael, what are these?" Rebecca whispered furiously so that she didn't attract any more attention to the group.
Wilder and Noah both craned their necks to get a good look at whatever was infuriating Rebecca.
"Just what were you planning to do with these anyway?" Rebecca turned the papers around, revealing that they were actually photos. Rebecca glared at him fiercely.
"Well," Michael pretended to fix his clothes, brushed some invisible lint off of his shirt and puffed out his chest. "How could I not do a story on Amanda? She's Amanda Pierce. She's always put together. She writes the fashion column for heaven's sake. What are the odds that this will ever happen again? Meanwhile, I write the gossip column. I have an obligation to my fans. What will they think if I don't write about this?"
"DJ actually approved of this?" Rebecca asked, raising an eyebrow.
"And by 'not exactly' you mean you didn't tell her?"
"When you're a journalist, you do what you have to do. It's nothing personal. It's just business." Michael reached out his hand for the shots of Amanda.
"You don't actually think I'm gonna give these back to you, do you?" Rebecca asked incredulously.
Michael looked surprised.
"Michael! If you write about Amanda in your article and use these pictures, she'll be humiliated!"
"When my article makes me famous, I'll make sure everyone conveniently forgets Amanda's little fashion don'ts." Michael retorted.
Noah, who had been silent throughout this whole exchange, snorted at this statement, summing up Rebecca's thoughts completely.
"So let's be reasonable…" Michael stretched out his hand once more for the pictures of Amanda in her recent hideous outfits.
Rebecca responded to this by ripping the photos up in front of his face. Michael let out wounded squeal. Rebecca ignored him.
"So it's settled then. We're all going to Amanda's?" she sent Michael a look, a tacit dare for him to refuse after the way he was planning to betray Amanda. He cringed and said nothing, knowing he didn't have a choice. Wilder nodded (as if he would ever say no when it came to Amanda). All Rebecca had to worry about was…Noah. Just as she turned her head in his direction, Noah spoke.
"Sure I'll come, if it'll help." He shrugged.
Rebecca beamed. She was glad that Noah had said yes. Not that Amanda and Noah were enemies or anything, in fact over the time that Noah and Rebecca had been an item, Amanda and Noah had gotten pretty friendly, even if sometimes it was by deceptive means.
"Let's go," Rebecca said cheerfully.
The taxi pulled up slowly in front of an ornately designed iron gate with the letters "PM" fashioned into the middle of the gate. Pierce Manor. Rebecca had called "Daddy's Assistant" beforehand, so when the taxi pulled up, as expected, the gates swung open to grant them access to the lavish mansion. The taxi driver let out a low whistle.
"Swanky," he commented, eyebrows raised as he drove around the fountain and came to a stop.
"Yeah well, we don't live here so don't expect a 'swanky' tip." Noah said bluntly.
"Noah!" Rebecca exclaimed in embarrassment. However, she couldn't help but notice the cab driver's abrupt change in moods at Noah's words.
The gang paid the driver with the money they had pooled together, and quickly filed out of the taxi. Michael gazed at the mansion, looking at it in awe. It was beautiful. Rebecca had thought it was like something from a fairy tale when she first saw it. A more modern fairy tale anyway.
As they ascended the marble steps leading to the front door, it swung open to reveal Gabrielle, the maid of the house, and Amanda's caretaker since she was a little girl. Over the years, the two had grown close, so Gabrielle flinging the door open, and rushing them inside so that they could "bring back her little Manda" wasn't too surprising.
After prying themselves from Gabrielle – who had insisted on crushing them all in one big hug after hurrying them inside – they climbed up the staircase and made their way to Amanda's room door. Rebecca knocked "shave and a haircut" and waited for a reply. No answer. She tried again, and this time they heard a muffled reply from beyond the door. Taking this as a sign to enter, she turned the knob and slowly pushed open the door, which resulted in a long creak that sounded so out of place in the previously silent room.
"Subtle as ever, R." Noah said, his voice dripping in sarcasm.
Rebecca ignored him. She stepped into the room and glanced around. The room hadn't changed since the last time Rebecca had seen it, but it was still breathtaking. It was huge first of all. It was probably twice the size of Teen Buzz's entire floor. And that wasn't even counting the master bathroom and Amanda's seemingly endless walk-in closet. The room was mostly draped in pink, with the occasional purple or green to spice things up a bit. The entire wall across from the door was actually a big floor-to-ceiling window, accompanied by some silk metallic pink floor-to-ceiling curtains, which were currently pulled back to give you an amazing view of the well trimmed lawn, insanely large pool, and tennis court in the Pierce's backyard. Rebecca shifted her gaze from the window and fixed it on Amanda's plush king sized bed, which was currently being occupied by Amanda herself.
Amanda was sprawled out onto her bed, with her head submerged within her multitude of pillows. She hadn't bothered to change her clothes from that afternoon, and was fidgeting restlessly, revealing that she had yet to fall asleep since she had returned home. All of a sudden, Amanda's head surfaced from her sea of pillows.
"I said to go aw-" Amanda stopped short when she saw her friends standing in the middle of her room. She frowned, clearly at a loss for words.
"Well isn't this nice and awkward," Noah joked.
"What are you doing here?" Amanda said finally.
Not exactly the warm welcome Rebecca had been expecting.
"We're here to cheer you up," Rebecca said, starting to approach Amanda.
"Well unless you brought the sandman with you, no thanks," Amanda retorted in annoyance.
But Rebecca hadn't come all this way out of concern for one of her best friends just to turn back now. She walked over to Amanda and sat down at the foot of the bed. "Look, we know you've been having trouble sleeping, so we came here to help. We don't have the sandman, but we do have some good old moral support." Rebecca smiled as if that just made things fine and dandy.
"I don't need 'moral support' Rebecca. What I think I need is an entirely new mattress. It's like trying to sleep on rocks!" she wailed.
The bed felt pretty comfy to Rebecca, but she decided not to say so, since it wouldn't exactly be very helpful.
"I just don't understand though," Amanda continued. "I've never had this problem before."
"You could always watch The National Geographic Channel," Noah advised. "That always puts me to sleep."
Rebecca, taking great offense to this bashing of her favorite channel, responded. "I'll have you know Noah that National Geographic is a very informative channel. You could stand to learn a thing or two from that channel instead of watching that mindless dribble…"
At this, Noah began to retaliate, and the two of them got caught up in a rather pointless argument. Seeing as Noah and Rebecca had seemingly forgotten their purpose at Pierce Manor, Michael and Wilder moved up to Amanda's bed.
Struggling to think of something, anything to say that would make Amanda feel better, Wilder spat out the first thing that came to his mind (which wasn't strange for Wilder).
"Hey Amanda, wanna hear a joke?"
Michael scoffed. He put a hand on Wilder's shoulder and looked down sympathetically at Amanda.
"Look at her Wilder. Does that look like the face of a girl who wants to hear a joke?"
"I don't know." Wilder tilted his head. "I can't really see her face. It's kind of buried in her pillows."
"She doesn't want to laugh. She wants to sleep. Talk about something boring. Put her to sleep with something stupid like those video games you always write about in your articles."
Wilder's eyes widened. He shook Michael's hand off of his shoulder, and put a hand to his chest in shock. "STUPID? My video games and my beat are not stupid. If anything's stupid," Wilder said poking his finger into Michael's chest accusingly. "It's your beat. 'Name Dropping'? Have you no pride? What possible satisfaction could you get from humiliating people, and sticking your nose where it doesn't belong?"
"First of all, watch the suit." Michael flicked Wilder's finger off of his chest, and before you knew it, the two of them had become engaged in an even sillier argument, if possible.
The four of them continued to quarrel for a while, until they started hearing some strange muffled noises. It was Rebecca who spotted the cause of the noise first, because it was coming from Amanda. Besides that, Amanda was shaking and causing the entire bed – which Rebecca happened to be sitting on – to vibrate. It suddenly dawned on Rebecca that Amanda was crying. Moments later, the boys came to the same realization as Rebecca, and their eyes widened simultaneously.
"D-don't cry Amanda," Wilder sputtered desperately. "Look!" he said as he drew Michael, Noah, and Rebecca into a bone crushing hug. "We stopped arguing! We're all friends again!"
Amanda carried on sobbing as if she hadn't even heard what Wilder had just said. Michael and Noah awkwardly patted her head, while Rebecca tried to hug her from the side.
"Don't cry…" Wilder looked miserable.
Amanda's shaking seemed to subside, and she was still. Then she spoke.
"What?" Rebecca asked finally, unable to understand Amanda's muffled words.
Amanda removed her head from the pillows. "This is awful! What if I never sleep again?" she whined. "I'll look like this every day. Then I'll get bags under my eyes and look even worse." Amanda's face twisted in horror.
Rebecca could think of a lot worse things that could go wrong for Amanda if she turned into an insomniac, but she decided that right then wasn't the time to say so. Instead she patted Amanda's shoulder reassuringly.
"I'm sure you'll be able to sleep again Amanda." Rebecca said soothingly.
"Oh, don't patronize me!" Amanda snapped.
"Well you don't look that bad…" Michael lied, his voice sounding clearly strained.
"Yeah," Noah chipped in. "I've seen worse."
At this, Amanda let out an odd noise that sounded like a hybrid of a squeal and a sob.
"You've seen worse? Is that supposed to make me feel better?"
"Did it work?" Noah quipped.
Rebecca sent him a look that could give DJ's look a run for its money, as Amanda let her head drop back down into her pillows.
"I'll take that as a no," Noah said.
"Way to go Noah," Michael said sarcastically. "I've seen worse? What were you thinking?"
"Oh please," Noah said defensively. "Like 'you don't look that bad' is any better. That's basically a nice way of saying she doesn't look good!"
"Enough." Rebecca sent them both reprimanding looks before continuing. "You guys, let's not forget the reason we came here." She sent pointed looks towards Amanda. "If you don't have anything nice to say, then don't say anything."
Michael mimed zipping his mouth shut and locking it with a key, and Noah rolled his eyes but said nothing.
"Amanda!" Gabrielle's voice rang through the hallway outside Amanda's door. "Dinner's ready!" she called from downstairs.
Amanda laid her head on her pillow sideways so that she could respond: "I'm not hungry!" Then, Amanda quickly turned her head back to its original position, hiding it beneath her pillows.
"Amanda…some food might be good for you. You haven't been laying here all day have you? You should eat." Rebecca hesitated, knowing that Amanda wouldn't like what she had to say next. "Besides…how are you supposed to write your article and send it to DJ on an empty stomach?"
As expected, Amanda removed her head from her pillows and groaned. She clearly hadn't given her article a second thought since she'd been given the opportunity to go home early and try again for sleep.
"Rebecca's right," Wilder chipped in. "When you eat a big meal it makes you sleepy." Wilder flashed Amanda a boyish grin. "I should know. Plus Gabrielle's cooking is…" Wilder frowned now, seeming to be unable to find the right word.
Amanda gave Wilder a small smile. "Awestruck?" she offered.
Wilder's grin returned. "Yeah. Awestruck! But your cooking is double awestruck," he said.
When Wilder said that, Amanda actually gave him an appreciative smile. Wilder's smile seemed to get even brighter when she smiled…if that was possible.
Rebecca smiled knowingly at them. "Um, you guys? Dinner?"
Amanda broke eye contact with Wilder and looked at Rebecca. "Oh. Right. That." She said flatly, her lighthearted mood disappearing almost instantly.
What on earth?
"Uh…you guys go ahead, I need to do my…pre-dinner exercises!" Wilder exclaimed.
"Pre-dinner exercises?" Michael repeated, apparently unable to keep his vow of silence any longer.
"I thought you sealed your lips," Noah pointed out, arching an eyebrow at Michael.
"Well I do have to eat. But back to this pre-dinner exercise business."
"Michael, come on. It's Wilder. Are you really surprised?" Noah asked as he started helping Amanda off of her bed. Well actually, it was more like forcing Amanda off of her bed. Amanda was struggling against Noah with all her might, as if simply going to dinner would make her face melt off. However, Amanda's struggles were futile because Noah, being the stronger of the two, got fed up, tossed Amanda over his shoulder, and headed toward the door.
"Tough love," Michael commented, before following them out the door.
"Hey! Be careful with her on the stairs!" Wilder yelled after Noah, genuinely concerned about Amanda's safety.
"And with that," Rebecca stated awkwardly. "I guess I'll leave you to your exercises." Rebecca left the room and pulled the door in just enough so that there was a small crack that she could see through.
Rebecca wasn't as naïve as some people liked to think. Pre-dinner exercises? That just sounded…well it sounded weird. So no one had thought too hard about Wilder doing it. Well, maybe Rebecca was naïve, but at least not when it came to her friends. Whatever the case, she knew something wasn't right. It wasn't the strange thing that Wilder had claimed to be doing – because honestly, strange things were Wilder's specialty – it was the strange way that Wilder had said it. Was she seriously the only one who had picked that up? Just as Rebecca crouched down to peek through the crack in the door, it occurred to her that what she was doing sneaky and wrong. Not to mention a total invasion of Wilder's privacy (never mind that he was in someone else's house). But before she could change her mind and head downstairs, she saw Wilder move out of the corner of her eye. Wilder moved quickly, but Rebecca knew she wasn't blind. Wilder had seriously just pulled something from underneath Amanda's mattress.
"What the…" Rebecca mouthed, unable to comprehend what was going on.
Rebecca hadn't gotten much more than a glimpse of the object that Wilder was holding, because as quickly as Wilder had pulled it out, he stuffed it into the pocket of his pants.
"What the…" Rebecca mouthed, yet again. That was the second time today that she'd almost said 'h-e-double hockey sticks'. It had to be a new personal record.
Wilder fixed his clothes and glanced at himself in Amanda's vanity mirror before starting towards the door. Rebecca took this as her cue to get going and sprinted down the hall and stairs faster than she'd ever moved in her life.
"Hey R, where ya been? You missed the appetizers." Noah said, through a mouth full of what looked like crab cakes.
Rebecca frowned. "Say it, don't spray it Noah." She said, seating herself between Noah and Amanda and across from Michael just as Wilder walked in.
Noah looked at Rebecca and made a point to swallow before speaking. "Finished exercising?" Noah smirked, obviously highly amused.
"Yup!" Wilder said. "And the Wild-man is ready to eat!"
Amanda and Rebecca barely touched their food during dinner. Thankfully, everybody at the table was either too preoccupied with the good food or trying to get Amanda to eat to notice the latter of the two. Rebecca's mind was reeling all through dinner as she thought about what she had just witnessed Wilder do in Amanda's room. What had she just witnessed Wilder do in Amanda's room? Rebecca absolutely refused to consider the thought that kept revisiting her mind: Thief. Not Wilder. Not her Wilder. Wilder was totally incapable of even hurting a fly, much less breaking the law. He volunteered at charities regularly. He even spent an entire summer in Mexico with his dad building homes for the homeless! He was a sweetheart, not a thief. Besides, Amanda wasn't the type of person to put things she considered valuable under her mattress of all places. Of course Rebecca had to remember that she was talking about Amanda. The girl practically wiped her mouth with one hundred dollar bills. What Amanda didn't consider valuable were probably the most expensive things that a lot of people would ever own. So the question remained: What was she going to do about it? Rebecca didn't know what was going on, but she knew she had to confront Wilder.
After dinner, the gang followed Amanda back up to her room. For what, they didn't know. They had tried getting Amanda to sleep and failed miserably. Besides, it was really difficult to help someone who didn't want to be helped. Amanda claimed that all she wanted to do was go to sleep, but she hadn't exactly been cooperative with their efforts. On the other hand, the gang's ideas hadn't been very good, so there was fault on both sides really. Amanda had been sitting up on her bed listening to her friends pitch in useless idea after useless idea, but now, she flopped down onto her bed and stared at the ceiling. She was so tired of their arguing over the best way to get her to sleep. They were currently bickering over the last bad idea that was suggested: Call Rebecca's grandma and get her to sing Amanda a lullaby. Courtesy of Wilder. They had officially run out of ideas. Actually, Amanda was convinced that they'd run out of ideas before they'd even set foot in her house. Meaning they hadn't had an idea to begin with. The end result? It was getting late, and they were getting nowhere. Big surprise.
Maybe if everyone just left me in peace and quiet, then I would be able to sleep.
She really didn't need this stress. As Rebecca had so helpfully pointed out, she had yet to come up with a pitch to send to DJ for approval. And once DJ approved it, she was going to have to type up her article to be ready for tomorrow! How was she supposed to do that if she didn't get any sleep? And how was she supposed to fall asleep in the first place while Michael, Rebecca, Noah, and Wilder were in a heated debate about how to get her to sleep? Amanda was just about to open her mouth and tell everyone to just shut up and leave, when she became aware of the fact that their arguing had become less irritating and was now a lot more soothing…
Rebecca sighed and rubbed her temples. The constant arguing was working on her last nerve. Not to mention that she could feel a faint throbbing in the back of her head, which was a definite sign that she was getting a headache. She stood up, but of course not a soul noticed. Amanda had stopped giving them her attention a while ago, and the boys were much too busy pleading – actually it was more like yelling – their case to each other, about whose idea was best and why. Rebecca was getting ready to give them all a scolding that DJ would be proud of, but before she opened her mouth, she happened to glance in Amanda's direction. Rebecca did a double take. No way. Amanda was sleeping! Rebecca looked fervently at the boys who still hadn't come to terms with each other on the sleeping issue. Well she was going to settle this right now. Amanda hadn't been getting any sleep and what kind of friend would she be if she let the boys wake her up? Rebecca marched over and stood in between all three of them, making sure her presence was noticed.
"You guys!" she hissed once they had calmed down. Rebecca motioned silently to Amanda, who was still breathing evenly in her undisturbed sleep.
Noah nodded in Amanda's direction. "Is she…" Noah began.
"Asleep, yeah," Rebecca finished softly.
"Well," said Michael, taking care to keep his voice down. "I guess that's our cue to disappear." Michael started for the door and Noah followed him. Rebecca made for the door as well, but stopped in the doorway when she realized that Wilder wasn't behind her.
"She looks so gorgeous when she's sleeping…" Wilder breathed.
His words were barely audible, but Rebecca heard them all the same. Hiding a small smile, she took him by the arm gently and led him out of the room.
"See? I knew all she needed was moral support." Rebecca said cheerfully.
Rebecca, Noah, Wilder, and Michael were now standing outside waiting for their respective rides that would take them to their homes. Rebecca had been lying through her teeth just now, but it sounded like something she would say, so no one noticed. She didn't really believe for a second that "moral support" was the cause of Amanda falling asleep. However, she had a theory that concerned Wilder and his mysterious object…
First thing tomorrow.
Rebecca frowned. She had long since finished her History test which was supposed to take the entire lesson to complete, and there was still half an hour left in the lesson, so Rebecca allowed her mind to wander. She had told herself that she would talk to Wilder "first thing tomorrow" but she hadn't taken into account that "tomorrow" was Saturday. She didn't know where Wilder lived, and she felt that this was a matter best discussed in person rather than over the phone. Of course, she could've asked Noah where Wilder lived…if she could've gotten a hold of him. Apparently, Noah's father had conveniently deemed last weekend "Father, Son Weekend" and Noah – who was unlikely to give up valuable time with his dad – hadn't been picking up the phone. As for Amanda, Rebecca wouldn't allow herself to disturb her. Amanda had just started sleeping again and needed to recuperate properly before she could go back to being her old self again. So Rebecca had impatiently waited out the weekend, so that she could approach Wilder.
However, Rebecca had been trying to do just that without much success. She'd had no first lessons with him today, and during break she'd been held back so that Mrs. Burns could talk to her about the upcoming science fair. In the classes that followed, Rebecca had tried to bring it up, but apparently she hadn't been very inconspicuous about it, as she'd been caught by a teacher each time. If that wasn't enough, at lunch, Wilder had been "busy" with Noah trying to break some kind of eating world record. And now here she was in History, the last lesson of the day and she still hadn't spoken to Wilder. At least she still had Teen Buzz. If DJ didn't have them swamped with too much work, she could corner him somehow. Just then, the bell rang, jolting Rebecca from her thoughts.
"Alright class, drop your pens and send your papers up."
Amanda beamed. She was looking resplendent in a grayish-silver tunic top accompanied by Figarucci brand black skinny jeans, and knee high black boots. Yup. She was back on top of her game, where she preferred to be. Over the weekend, not only had she managed to get to sleep, but she'd also come up with a new pitch, sent it to DJ, had it approved, and finished and sent her article all in one long night. Then, the day afterwards she'd promptly burned the contents of "the reject closet", and treated herself to a shopping spree. Now she was (once again) turning heads from every direction as she strutted from the newsstands and over to the entrance of The Blurb, carrying the copy of Teen Buzz that was printed that morning. Amanda pulled open the glass door of the restaurant and spotted Noah and Michael sitting at their usual table, with no Rebecca or Wilder in sight. Amanda shrugged it off. Rebecca was probably trying to do a little extra work, and Wilder was bound to come crashing in (literally) any minute now. Amanda dropped into a seat.
"Amanda, good to see you back to normal," Noah commented.
Amanda sighed happily. "It's good to be back Noah." Smiling, she held up the magazine. "Good news."
Michael cringed. For some odd reason, he hadn't finished his article and DJ couldn't include his beat in the issue.
"Ooh!" Noah reached out and grabbed the magazine out of Amanda's hands eagerly. "I have to see my article on the Gold Boulders!" Noah exclaimed, referring to some band or the other that had gained success overnight.
"Noah, please. You can read about that any time." Amanda said, snatching up the magazine. "This is the good news." Amanda flipped to her beat "Fashion Forward" her face practically glowing with pride. "I turned my negative into a positive." Amanda smiled. Then, she cleared her throat and began to read. "Fashion Forward by Amanda Pierce. When it comes to fashion, there are all types of people who play very important parts in the fashion world. And every now and again, one comes across daring, significantly creative, and artistically brave people. These people are the ones who think outside of the box and dare to be different. They have something about them that inspires others to follow their example. These people are called trendsetters. Trendsetters play one of the most important roles in the fashion world, because without them we would all be stuck in a fashion rut. So here's the million dollar question: What does it take to be a trendsetter? I, Amanda Pierce, fashion guru of Teen Buzz, took it upon myself to find out. First, I intentionally deprived myself of sleep to drastically affect how much I cared about everyone else's opinions on my fashion choices. Next, I thought way outside of the box, putting together the most random combinations that I could think of. The result? Some really questionable outfits. I did this for three days, and in that short span of time I made a serious impact on the way some of my fellow classmates dressed. As you can see from the photos above, my new trend has already caught on and is spreading like wildfire. So in my investigation, I found out just what it takes to be a trendsetter. A confident demeanor and some serious perseverance. Take it from me, with my advice; you can be a trendsetter too!"
Noah stared at Amanda. "So basically…your whole article is a lie."
"You know, lie is such a strong word. I'd like to think of it more as bending the truth. I was deprived of sleep. Maybe not intentionally, but that's not the point. And I did start a trend. See the pictures?" Amanda turned the magazine around so that they could see.
Michael's eyebrows rose. "Hey! These actually are our classmates…dressed in imitations of your hideous outfits."
"So you actually did start a trend?" Noah asked in disbelief.
"Well…no. Not exactly." She shrugged. "What can I say? A little money goes a long way."
"Ingenious…" Michael said, clearly in awe.
Noah rolled his eyes. "Bribery. What next? Blackmail?"
"Oh, shut up Noah." Amanda snapped. "Like you've never done anything wrong. You're starting to sound like Rebecca."
Rebecca tapped her foot and checked her watch. She'd been up here for at least ten minutes now. When everyone had packed up for the day and went down to The Blurb, Wilder had told them that he would "be down there in two minutes" because he had to use the bathroom. So Rebecca had hung back too, not about to miss her chance to interrogate Wilder. She had a strong gut feeling that it was important. She sighed in impatience.
What could he be doing? Wait. Never mind. I really don't wanna know.
Rebecca jumped in surprise as a toilet flushed and water started to run from the faucet in the bathroom, breaking the silence. "Finally," She muttered.
A soft squeaking noise sounded in the room, and the water stopped running. Then, Wilder emerged from the bathroom and didn't even glance in Rebecca's direction as he headed straight for the kitchen. Rebecca trailed after him silently, wanting to take him by surprise.
Wilder opened the fridge and broke out into a chorus of his own rendition of "The Campfire Song Song" while he rummaged through it. "Let's gather 'round the kitchen, as we sing our sandwich making song. Our S-A-N-D-W-…huh. Is there a 'T' in sandwich?" Wilder thought aloud.
"No Wilder," Rebecca answered, causing Wilder to jump and hit his head in the refrigerator.
"Rebecca! What are you doing here? I thought you went down to The Blurb."
She shook her head. "Nope. I need to talk to you."
"Oh." He grinned. "What about?"
Rebecca decided to get straight to the point. "What did you take from underneath Amanda's mattress?"
Wilder's grin faltered and then disappeared completely. "Um…"
Amanda reached out her hand for her handbag, and was startled to find that it was gone. "Hey! Where's my bag?"
"In the office maybe?" Michael suggested.
Amanda put her hand over her heart in relief. "Oh yeah. Office. Right."
"Or maybe," Noah began as Amanda got up. "It's karma for your article of LIES," He teased.
Amanda rolled her eyes at him and shoved him lightly as she walked quickly away from them and out into the hallway where the elevator was. She stopped directly in front of it, and pressed the up button repeatedly. Momentarily, the elevator gave a little ding, and the doors slid open to receive her. After getting inside she jabbed the button for the fourth floor a little harder than necessary and prayed that her bag was sitting on top of her desk where she remembered last seeing it. Before she knew it, the elevator came to a stop and the doors opened. To her relief, the first thing she saw when they opened was her little black bag on top of her desk.
"There you are," Amanda said walking over to her desk and picking up her bag.
Amanda turned to leave, but froze when she thought she heard voices. She'd gotten so used to eavesdropping since she'd started working at Teen Buzz, that she just couldn't help it when her feet switched to autopilot and led her towards the source of the noise: the kitchen. She peeked from behind the wall to get a good view of the people speaking, and raised an eyebrow when she saw Rebecca and Wilder, the latter of which was looking very uncomfortable.
"Don't lie to me Wilder. What was it? Why'd you put it in your pocket? Was it Amanda's?"
What the heck is going on?
Wilder sighed and pulled a crumpled piece of paper out of his pocket. "It's this. I didn't steal it from Amanda. It's mine."
Rebecca frowned and put her hands on her hips. "Then why was it under her mattress?"
Wilder opened up the crumpled piece of paper and began to read.
"A single look from you is bliss.
Your beauty is unmatched.
No one's ever made me feel like this,
My heart's become attached.
Your eyes shine like the morning sun.
You're flawless straight from head to toe.
I want to be your only one,
But you don't even know.
I wish you'd tell me how you feel.
I don't know what to do.
If my heart breaks, it may never heal,
True love equals me and you.
So I'll read you this poem as a start,
Of a last attempt to win your heart."
Rebecca placed a hand over her heart and stood there in apparent shock. "Wilder…that was beautiful. But wh-"
Wilder shook his head vigorously, looking very frustrated. "Remember last week Sunday, when we all went to Amanda's house for Thanksgiving dinner?"
Rebecca nodded silently.
"And remember how we all hung out in her room until Gabrielle called us down for dinner?"
Rebecca nodded again, a bit slower this time, probably due to confusion.
Wilder stared pointedly at the ground now, and avoided eye contact with Rebecca as he spoke. "I wrote this for Amanda. I was gonna read it to her that same day as soon as I could get her alone. When everyone was heading downstairs for dinner was the perfect moment for me to pull Amanda to the side and read it to her…but I chickened out at the last minute and stuffed it under her mattress when no one was looking."
"Oh Wilder…" Rebecca said, putting a hand on his shoulder in sympathy. "Do you…want to talk about it?"
"No. I just want to be alone if you don't mind," he said without looking at her.
Rebecca gave his shoulder a little squeeze before turning away and heading for the door.
Amanda, who had been frozen from shock after learning that the poem was for her, snapped back to reality when she realized Rebecca was headed her way and dove behind a desk just as Rebecca came around the corner. Amanda stayed crouched behind the desk and didn't move a muscle until she heard the ding which told her that Rebecca was on another floor. Stepping out from her hiding place, she walked into the kitchen where she knew Wilder was. The click-clack sound of the heels of Amanda's boots hitting the tiled floor, alerted Wilder of the fact that he wasn't alone in the room.
Amanda watched Wilder jerk his head up to stare at her, wide-eyed. There was an awkward silence as the two stared at each other, both unsure of what to say.
"Wilder," Amanda began, breaking the silence. "I heard your poem."
Wilder frowned and looked away.
She smiled softly at him. "Rebecca's right. It is beautiful."
"You mean that?" Wilder said, glancing at her.
She nodded. "Honestly Wilder, I had no idea you were such a romantic…I guess it's just one more thing I can add to my list."
Letting his curiosity get the better of him, Wilder turned around to face Amanda. "List? What list?"
"The list of things I love about you Wilder." She flashed another smile at him. "I love your hair," Amanda began, taking a step closer to Wilder. "I love your eyes." One step closer. "I love your personality." One step closer. "I love your laugh." One step closer. "I love your lips." Amanda was now standing right in front of Wilder. "And I wish," She began slowly, "that your lips would touch mine…so that I can love your kiss." She looked up at him hopefully.
Wilder didn't have to be told twice. Grinning, he circled his arms around her petite waist and pressed his lips against hers, and she wrapped her arms around his neck in response. Wilder pulled Amanda's body closer to him and deepened the kiss. Wilder tried to keep up as their tongues fought for dominance, but ultimately, Amanda won the battle. She pulled away from him, her heart beating wildly in her chest.
"I love you Wilder," She said caressing his cheek.
Wilder – who had gone into a daze when their mouths parted – blinked at her, and then broke out into a grin.