Author Note: Yay! It looks like people are interested in this story: they're reading, alerting, and (best of all) reviewing. It makes me happy. Here's another chapter, hope you all like!
Tip: When you have a falling out with a friend it can seem like you'll never be on good terms again; but give it time and don't cut them from your life just yet, because eventually you'll put it all behind you and remember that you care about each other.
The first day of high school wasn't shaping up to be a good one for Ned. So far he had no classes with either Cookie or Moze, or any of his old friends from Polk for that matter. He'd been semi-prepared for such a situation, the high school had a larger student population than his middle school and the classes were scheduled oddly to accommodate the size, all he had to do was follow his own tip: Just make new friends, but he wasn't prepared for the split lunch period – it seemed he shared lunch with Cookie but not Moze.
Also, despite his permanent record having been destroyed in a paper-shredding accident the year before, his reputation still managed to precede him. It felt like every teacher he came in contact with was lining him up in their cross-hairs, readying to take him down at the first misstep.
Ned carried his tray of cafeteria lunch foods – mystery meat, gray goop, and green sludge – to where Cookie sat and sunk into the seat across the table.
"Moze doesn't have lunch this period, does she?" Ned immediately asked, figuring he ought to double-check before settling into party planning mode.
Cookie nearly jumped a foot from his seat at the question, his eyes suddenly wide, darting nervously around the cafeteria. He also looked a little pale, but that was probably because he'd been chewing the mystery meat moments before.
"I don't know. What makes you think I would know?" Cookie hastily demanded, "Shouldn't you know? You're her boyfriend, not me. I'm just her friend. Yup. Just friends. That's all we are and that's all we'll ever be and that's the way I like it."
Ned perked a brow and reminded Cookie, "I asked you to keep her distracted today while I planned our three-month-a-versary party."
"Oh. Right," Cookie mumbled, going back to eating his mystery meat – not something Ned would recommend, "I think she's in class."
"You think? As in, you don't know exactly where she is?" Ned cried, flabbergasted. He gave Cookie one job, "Part of distracting Moze is keeping an eye on her so she doesn't find out about the party. If you don't know where she is, then you're not keeping an eye on her and if you're not keeping an eye on her then she could sneak right up on me in the middle of party plans and find out about everything and the party will be ruined, I won't be able to give Moze the promise rings, she'll forget how perfect we are for each other and dump me!"
"Unless she dumps you before she finds out about the party," Cookie pointed out, and then realizing what he'd said, his jaw swung open, unhinged and eyes went wide, "Uh…I mean…"
"Why would you say that?" Ned demanded then he narrowed his eyes suspiciously and frantically asked, "Wait. Did Moze say something?"
"What? No," Cookie answered, but he didn't sound altogether honest, "Of course not...I was just…thinking up…things that would never happen. To prove a point. Moze isn't going to find out about the party. You'll give her your promise rings, and live happily ever after. Because the one thing I know for certain: Moze is not going to…uh…dump you. Ever. I'll make sure of it."
Ned raised a brow.
"You're acting weird," he commented.
"I'm not acting weird. Maybe you're the one acting weird," Cookie shot back, "You're stressed about this party, and you keep thinking Moze is going to dump you, it's got your head all crazy."
Ned sighed. He had been stressing a lot about the party. It didn't help that his first day of high school really stank. And it was true he had been worrying a lot about the possibility of Moze dumping him. It was just that dating her was different than dating any other girl. She had been his lifelong best friend. If things ended between them on uncertain terms…well…it made Ned queasy just thinking about it.
"I guess you're right," Ned relented, "Let's focus on the party for now. You said you would have a guest list ready by now?"
"Oh yeah. One moment, let me print it out."
Cookie removed the mouse from his pocket that controlled his integrative computer system and jiggled the joystick a bit, then pressed a few buttons. His pants started to vibrate and making whirring noises.
Ned furrowed his brow.
"I was kind of hoping you'd get rid of the printer-pants by high school," he quietly commented.
Out of the back hem of his jeans, Cookie removed a sheet of paper and handed it over. Ned grinned, scanning the list, impressed. A lot of kids had RSVP'd for the party, including…
"Suzie Crabgrass?" Ned read aloud, aghast. He lowered the sheet and glared at Cookie, saying, "How could you send an invite to Suzie Crabgrass? I chose Moze over her last year and now she hates me!"
"Oh…um…uh…." Cookie ran a hand nervously over the back of his neck. "I don't know how she got an invite…but I'm sure she doesn't hate you…"
"She signed my yearbook, 'Hey Ned, have a great summer. By the way, I hate you. Take care, Suzie Crabgrass'," Ned cried. He looked to the list again, and his draw dropped, "Loomer and Missy Meany are on this list too! Cookie, what did you do?"
"I don't know. Let me see," Cookie stammered sheepishly. He fumbled with his mouse and then his expression morphed into Cookie-face.
"What's with Cookie-face?" Ned demanded, flying right into panic-mode again for the umpteenth time that day.
"I meant to send the invite to all our friends from eighth grade," Cookie moaned explanation, "But I accidentally sent them to our entire eighth grade class!"
Ned twitched involuntarily, his eyes bugging out slightly.
"You…what?" he hissed. He grabbed hold of Cookie's shoulders and gave them a shake, "Some of the people on this list would love nothing more than to see me and Moze torn apart!" He buried his face in a hand, "And a lot of them would have no problem ruining the surprise for Moze."
"What do we do?" Cookie questioned.
"I need to think…" Ned said, rolling his eyes up to the ceiling as the gears clicked away thoughts in his head. Finally, he snapped his fingers and decided, "I'll find the kids on this list that would want to destroy this party, and me and Moze's relationship and tell them the party's been cancelled. They can't try to spoil something if they think it's no longer going to happen. You find Moze and keep her from talking to any of them, and for crying out loud, Cookie, keep an eye on her! Alright, let's split up."
"Right," Cookie chirped acknowledgement. Ned hopped up and marched away, Cookie watching his friend's departure a moment. He grimaced and when Ned was out of earshot, muttered, "And I have to figure out how to tell Moze I only like her as a friend before she decides to break up with Ned."
After the first few class periods, Moze has taken up residency in the second floor girls' bathroom, third stall. She passed third period reading the stall graffiti; apparently Moze's old almost-boyfriend, Jock Goldman, ranked high on the freshman hottie list a couple years before. He would be a junior that year. She smiled inwardly at the thought of him finding out she and Ned were now dating. The last time she'd seen Jock was at the 'Around the World Dance' where he'd mistakenly believed she was using him to make Ned jealous, a belief cemented when Ned then accidentally kissed her instead of his date that evening. Reflecting back, she hadn't been very heartbroken over the loss; despite Jock's popularity and attractiveness.
In fact, she never felt all that heartbroken when it came to any of her old 'flames'. They just didn't matter all that much, because after all was said and done, she still had Ned.
Moze sighed and leaned heavily against the stall door. It protested under her weight. She ran a fingertip along the edge of her eyelid, smearing forming tears. She spent half-a-period and all of lunch crying and she had firmly decided she wouldn't do it anymore. She wrapped her arms around herself and closed her eyes. She hated feeling all worked up; being a sappy, emotional girl just wasn't her thing.
Another bell rang and Moze checked her watch. Two more class periods to go. She ran a hand over her face, dampening her cheeks with smudged unshed tears, and decided she ought to attempt finishing up the day's last classes. She heard a shuffle of girls entering the restroom, freshening up before their next class, and waited, listening to them chatter happily, carefree. She recognized some voices; Claire Sawyer and Lisa Zemo.
"Are you going to the party tonight?" Claire was asking.
Party? Moze furrowed her brow. She hadn't heard about a party.
"Yeah, I can't wait. It'll be fun to see everyone from last year. And it's so sweet of Ned," Lisa replied, "To do this for…"
The door closed behind the two girls, cutting off the rest of their conversation. Other girls followed until finally the bathroom was silent. Moze waited another few seconds, to be certain she was entirely alone, before leaving the stall. She nearly ran head first into a petite dark-haired girl. They locked eyes, a sneer on the other girl's lip.
"Mosely," she snarled greeting.
All too aware of her tear-streaked face, Moze lowered her eyes, cheeks blistering red.
She muttered disinterestedly, "Hey, Suzie."
Then she maneuvered past towards the sink, feeling Suzie's confused, slightly concerned eyes watching her. She turned on the faucet and splashed some cold water into her face.
"Are you okay?" Suzie questioned tentatively.
Moze remained silent, grabbing a sheet of brown paper towel and dabbed her face dry. She and Suzie had been arch-enemies from the fourth grade when Suzie had moved into town leading up to the end of sixth grade, competing maliciously in all things. Suzie had also been Ned's dream girl, his ultimate crush, since the fourth grade.
Over the course of seventh grade, determined to find a best friend that wasn't a boy and realizing how much she and Suzie had in common, the two became best friends and in the eighth grade Suzie started dating Ned.
Halfway through eighth grade Suzie moved away, and in the process of getting over her, Ned and Moze realized they had feelings for one another, but before they could act on those feelings, Suzie moved back. At that time, it seemed Ned and Suzie would rekindle their romance and that Ned and Moze would never, ever, be.
Then, during the end of year eighth grade field trip, Ned chose Moze over Suzie.
Since then, and despite Moze's best efforts to soothe Suzie's hurt feelings over the entire ordeal, things had returned to pre-seventh grade between the two girls. Moze was disappointed, but she had known it was inevitable. The strongest of friendships couldn't survive the battle-for-a-boy, so one forged out of hate over the course of a year and a half or so didn't stand a chance.
Needless to say, Suzie felt like the last person on earth Moze should talk to about her current problem. And yet…
"Are you and Ned fighting?" Suzie pressed, her tone suggesting nothing but that of a worried friend and maybe a little agitation, "I kind of noticed you and him haven't been in the same hall all day. Everyone has kind of noticed. It isn't like you two at all. You guys didn't break up did you?"
Yet, that seemed like the very reason Moze could talk to her.
"No…we aren't fighting," Moze started, turning to face Suzie and feeling the tears coming again, "But something did happen and…" she took a deep, steadying breath, "And I think we might break up…" A stray tear slipped down her cheek and she swiped at it angrily, "…we won't have any choice…but…to break up…"
Last note: As a forewarning, I kind of decided I won't be spending much time proofing this story (I barely have the time to write it...). I just want to pump it out as quick as possible. I apologize in advance for all typos and grammatical mistakes that I know I will make...
Anyhoo, please let me know what you think!