So this is the third of my advent fics and was born out of me re-reading New Moon this summer, specifically the moment where Bella comes out of her coma, only to notice that everyone at school has changed.

Thanks to the lovely msrachelcullen and Simaril who both pre-read this for me at short notice. I really hope you like it. As always, I own nothing.



I loved Lauren. She was one of my best friends and had been since kindergarten. As we got older, however, moving on from middle school to high school, I found myself liking her less and less. It wasn't so much that she was different by nature, but more that she became harsher and more vitriolic than before.

In the past she had been witty and vivacious, friends gathering around her, a pretty girl with an infectious laugh. But since we all turned fifteen that had changed. Her funny remarks had turned into scathing comments, her words of advice had become criticisms that bit at your insecurities, and her time had become a valuable commodity, something that she deigned to waste upon you rather than sharing with you. The only people she gathered around her nowadays were boys that she felt were cute, and therefore good enough for her, and girls who agreed with everything she said.

On occasion she could revert back to her old self, the only reason why we were still friends, but those times were occurring less and less lately, and I knew in the pit of my stomach that once we all left for college, I would no longer be friends with her.

I knew I wasn't the only one who felt that way though, however Jessica had felt inferior to her best friend for so long now that she pretty much went along with whatever Lauren had to say, even though it made her uncomfortable.

Like right now, when I could see Jess squirming uneasily as Lauren once again started tearing into Bella Swan, but kept her mouth shut, unwilling to provoke her friend's anger. She probably just didn't want to be thrown out of Lauren's house where we were all having a sleepover.

"...I mean honestly, Tyler dumped me last month and do you see me moping around Forks like a freak, avoiding everyone and everything. She doesn't even talk for fuck's sake. And Christ knows why she's sitting at our table at lunch again. Does she honestly think anyone wants her there? She didn't sit with us while her precious Edward was around; I've no clue why she thinks we want her back now that he's come to his senses and ditched her freaky, white ass."

Katie and Samantha giggled in agreement, but I couldn't just sit back and let her trash Bella like that.

"It's not fair to make that comparison, Lauren. Your relationship with Tyler was not like Bella's with Edward."

Lauren merely enjoyed the boost in social status that dating Tyler had given her. She wasn't particularly heartbroken when they split up either, choosing instead to drive up to Port Angeles and sleep with some college guy she had met in a club once, in a futile effort to make her ex jealous.

Bella and Edward had seemed...closer somehow. I always got the impression when watching the two of them together that if anything ever happened to one of them, the other would fall apart. Something which was then proven true when Edward moved away and Bella crumbled. They were fascinating to watch though when they were together. It was almost as if they were so finely tuned to each other than one moved so did the other. I had been so convinced that they would end up being those high-school sweethearts that were still together in twenty years time.

Lauren glared at me. "What exactly are you saying, Angela? That my relationship with Tyler wasn't real? That I should've curled into a useless ball like Bella did? Did you know that at one point they were talking about committing her? Jess's mom heard Dr Gerandy talking about it at the hospital, didn't she, Jess?"

Jessica immediately looked down, the shame clear upon her face as she picked at the polish on her nails and shrugged. "I guess."

She earned a scowl for her non-committal answer, but Lauren promptly ignored her.

"I mean, if you look at Bella, is it any wonder that Edward left her eventually. She never makes any effort with her clothes, she could've at least taken off those hideous lumberjack shirts that must belong to her father, she doesn't ever wear make-up or do her hair or do anything to take care of herself. Boys like girls who make an effort. They don't want to spend time with someone who can't be bothered to look after themselves for them."

I shook my head as Katie and Samantha nodded avidly, both their faces smeared in the 'efforts' they were willing to go to just for the sake of male attention, even though we were all sat here in our pyjamas.

"Edward seemed to like Bella as she was, without dressing up or anything. I don't think that had anything to do with them being together."

Samantha sneered at me, ever the Lauren copycat. "Where is he now though?"

"Yeah. It wasn't like he took her to California with him, is it? He probably knew she wouldn't fit in down there. Everyone's so beautiful. I'll bet you anything right now that Edward's strolling along a beach somewhere with someone just as gorgeous as he is hanging onto his arm."

Lauren sat back smugly. "He always was too good for her. God only knows why he kept her hanging on for so long when he could've had anyone he wanted. I mean, honestly, would you have turned that down?"

"You would've."

All of our eyes immediately landed on Jessica who had remained mostly quiet for the Bella-bashing part of the evening.

Lauren arched a disbelieving eyebrow. "Excuse me?"

Jessica flinched at her tone of voice, but didn't back down.

"You liked Edward and you thought he was gorgeous." She flushed. "Everyone did. But you only wanted him eventually because he was the only single one. Before you met him you were totally into Jasper Hale, until Alice made it clear that he was her man."

Lauren froze and it occurred to me that she had never expected Jessica to reveal that titbit of information. Silence fell upon our little group for a moment before Lauren visibly pulled herself together.

"Edward was always a bit too frigid for my tastes. I prefer men who know what to do with a woman."

I resisted the urge to snort at her pronouncement. Lauren still thought the height of love-making was giving her boyfriend of the moment a blowjob in the utility cupboard during lunch and receiving a clumsy fingering in return.

"So which one was Jasper again?" Katie asked. "I never really knew them so I always got confused as to which one was which. Obviously Edward was the one who dated Bella..."

"Right." Lauren quickly took charge of the conversation again. "Jasper was the tall, blonde one who went out with the little, dark-haired freak. Not at built as Emmett who was the big dude who dated the blonde, Rosalie, but I wouldn't have minded if he had invited me into the backseat of his car, if you know what I mean," she giggled.

Katie and Samantha tittered along with her, I rolled my eyes and, surprisingly, I caught Jessica doing the same.

"I don't know why he bothered with Alice though. I swear I asked him once if he needed any help finding his way away the school when he first moved here and his girlfriend..." she spat out the word with no small measure of sarcasm, "...actually growled at me. I was seriously like, hello, someone's clearly been watching too much Discovery Channel like a loser."

"You once beat up Jennifer Pearse for going out with Connor just a week after he dumped you. At least Alice only growled or whatever."

The top of Lauren's cheeks were turning pink with rage and her eyes hardened as Jessica once again spoke up in defence of the Cullens. I could tell that she was surprised by her friend's dismissal of her judgmental comments, and to tell you the truth, so was I. It was totally unlike Jess to say anything against Lauren, usually she was too afraid of the social consequences to speak out, but with just a few well-chosen remarks she had cut her best friend down to size. It wasn't until she unintentionally caught my eyes that I realised what she was doing.

Jessica liked least enough to not want to hear either her or her relationship with the Cullens criticised like this. I had assumed that her friendship with the girl was based on Bella's sudden popularity upon first moving to town, but seeing as she was angering Lauren by defending the girl made me realise that maybe she had just enjoyed spending time with the quieter girl.

"I can't believe you're defending that little..."

"Lauren!" I cut her off before she could start ranting too much. "Just leave it. Besides, you know what she said about you and Jennifer is true."

That shut her up...for all of ten seconds.

"Well, anyway, the Cullens were still really weird. And who wants a growling girlfriend? I mean, I guess I get why Edward went for Bella – after all you said it yourself Jess, she was a shiny new toy for all the guys as school. But Alice? Seriously, she looked like a boy."

"That's just because she was flat-chested though, Lauren," Samantha pointed out helpfully. "Her hair wasn't that bad really. Look here..." she held out the magazine she had been flicking through as we talked. "That's kind of similar, isn't it? And that's Halle Berry. She's gorgeous."

"Hmph," Lauren snorted. "She does have good bone structure. That's always important for shorter hair."

"You have good bone structure too, Lauren," Jessica piped up, sounding more animated than she had all evening. Evidently she was trying to get back into Lauren's good graces again after her temporary desertion.

"Really?" Lauren sidled over to the full-length mirror hanging on the wall and pulled her hair back, studying her face. "I do, don't I?" She kept her eyes fixed on her own image, tilting her head from side to side. "Because I was thinking of cutting my hair shorter. Not as short as Alice Cullen's hair, of course, but maybe something just above my shoulders."

"That would look awesome." Jessica nodded, her smile almost maniacal. "And you've got awesome boobs, so there's no question of anyone mistaking you for a boy."

"What do you think, Angela?"

I looked up at Lauren's expectant face, wanting to say something dismissive, but realising that the rest of the evening would be so much easier to get through if I held my tongue. "I think it would look great."

She merely sneered at me before turning back to the mirror; evidently my lack of enthusiasm had shone through.

I winced as Samantha let out an ear-piercing squeal. "Oh My God! Oh My God! Do you know what would be so amazing? If I cut your hair for you." She bounced excitedly in her seat at the idea.

"You?" I couldn't keep the incredulous tone from my voice. "Surely if she wanted someone done to her hair she'd go to a professional, like that guy in Port Angeles, wouldn't you, Lauren?"

Samantha frowned at me while Lauren ran her fingers nervously through the fine, blonde strands of her hair.

"I don't know," she finally answered. "Like, do you remember that totally awful haircut he gave Jessica a while back, when she ended up looking like a poodle that had been electrocuted?"

I did remember that unfortunately, and from the way her hands had nervously crept up to smooth over her curly hair, so did Jess.

"That was just because I was trying to save money by having the new stylist practice on me," she defended herself.

Lauren glanced backwards and rolled her eyes at the hurt look on Jessica's face. "It serves you right for being such a moron about it in the first place. I told you that if you want quality, you have to pay for it, and did you listen to me? No. Honestly, Jess. I don't know what you expect sometimes."

Samantha butted into their conversation impatiently. "But it wouldn't be like that if I did it. My aunt in Seattle is a hairdresser and she taught me everything she knows. Once I've been to college I'm going to open my own salon and everything. And look at Katie's hair..." She pointed in the direction of the quiet girl and we all moved as one to look at her. "I put those layers in for her the other week and they look really good, don't they?"

I had to admit, studying the cut of Katie's hair that Samantha had done a good job, but she got this kind of crazy gleam in her eyes when she talked about cutting people's hair that made me never want to be around her when she was wielding a pair of scissors.

"It is well done," Lauren begrudgingly admitted. "And I wouldn't really be having that much off..."

Samantha could see her caving and jumped up at the chance to show off her skills. "Exactly! It wouldn't cost you any money either if you let me do it, seeing as you're, like, one of my best friends and everything."

I had a bad feeling about this. "Lauren, half an hour ago you weren't even considering cutting your hair and now you're going to let Samantha do it? Why don't you sleep on it tonight and see what you decide before letting her cut it now?"

"Shut up, Angela." Jessica's words were harsh, but there was no venom in her voice. "If Lauren wants to let Samantha cut her hair then she can do what she wants. I, for one, think it's going to look great."

"Yeah." Lauren's voice started off nervous, but I could see her working herself up. "Yeah, let's do it."

"Really?" I had to ask one last time.

"Don't be such a worry-wort, Angela," she spat at me, turning back to the mirror. "Samantha knows what she's doing."

Half an hour later, I started to believe that I had been wrong to worry. Samantha had carefully styled Lauren's hair to rest just on her collarbone and it looked really good. Katie and I were watching the painstaking work closely, while Jessica ran around, fetching whatever was needed (a spray-bottle of water for Samantha, a vodka and coke for Lauren).

After she'd finished with the length, Samantha announced that she was ready to begin putting layers in.

"About here, Lauren?"

She slid the scissors underneath her hair to indicate where she was going to cut and waited for Lauren's nod."

"Great. That'll be dead easy. Hand me that clip, Jess."

It was like every horror film I've ever seen; where you can see exactly what is going to go wrong in painful slow motion, only you're not quick enough to stop it.

Jessica reached over to hand Samantha the requested clip only to accidentally bump against her hand, pressing the scissors dangerously close to Lauren's head.

"Jesus, Jessica! Watch what you're fucking doing," Samantha snapped.

"Sorry, sorry." The other girl raised her hands in protest. "I'll just get out your way."

As she stepped away, I saw her foot hook around the side of Samantha's ankle, sending the other girl off balance...

The snip of the scissors closing was deafening.

We all froze as a huge chunk of Lauren's fine hair fluttered down onto the floor, exposing the side of her head close to her face.

Lauren stared in wide-eyed shock at the mirror. Samantha had one hand clasped over her mouth, the hand in which she held the scissors starting to shake.

The scream built up until I had to clap my hands over my ears to protect them.

"WHAT HAVE YOU DONE?" Lauren flew out of her chair and rounded on Samantha, pushing her hard against the wall. "WHAT DID YOU DO TO MY HAIR?" she wailed.

"I didn't mean to." Samantha was crying now. "Jessica jogged my hand and put me off balance."

"Hey!" Jessica stepped forward so she was flanking Lauren's right. "Don't bring me into this. You were the one who said you could cut hair, and now look what you've done. You've butchered it."

Lauren let out this horrific noise at Jessica's words, kind of like how I'd imagine a dying animal to sound. "You stupid, stupid bitch!" She grasped frantically at the sheared hair, her fingers unable to gain purchase because it was now so short. Tears of rage and frustration ran down her face and with one last shriek, she ran out of the room. "MOM!"

Katie and Samantha ran after her, Samantha with a resentful glare thrown over her shoulder at Jessica, and I was left alone with my oldest friend. She met my eyes with no small amount of guilt and defiance in her eyes.

I was at a complete loss of what to say to her or what I thought of her actions. Despite her protests to the contrary, I had seen her trip Samantha up.

"Jess..." I stopped and just stared at her, waiting for her to give me some clue of what she had been thinking.

Jessica's eyes were glittering brightly now and she was taking small gasps of air as she tried to stop herself from crying.

"You heard her tonight," she pleaded. "You heard what she said about me...about Bella and the Cullens. She thinks she's so much better than us all, that we're all dirt beneath her and that she can treat us all how she wants and no-one will say anything. She's a horrible bitch."

I listened to Jessica's words, heard them echo exactly what I had been thinking earlier in the evening.

"Tell me she didn't deserve it," Jessica begged.

I thought about what I had been taught growing up, what my father and mother would say, what I thought about Lauren's bad behaviour, and Jessica's act of rebellion and I came to a decision I could live with.

"Samantha was the one holding the scissors," I decided quietly.

Jessica threw herself forward, wrapping her arms around me in a hug. I could only hope that keeping my mouth shut didn't come back to bite me later.