What Happens Next Online - Colleen Clayton

1

It’s four in the morning and I’m sitting on my porch steps waiting for my friends. The streetlight casts a pale glow over my yard and I’m so exhausted that the snow is starting to shape-shift into an enormous feather bed and soft cotton sheets. I should go back inside where it’s warm and wait by the window, but I’m more tired than I am cold, so I guess I’ll just stay where I am, hunkered down like a frozen gargoyle.

I didn’t fall asleep until almost two. I just laid there imagining Kirsten, Paige, and me on the slopes, ski bunnies on the rampage; no parents, hot guys everywhere. When the alarm went off, I didn’t even hear it. My mom came in and shook me awake—Get up already, jeez, it’s all you’ve talked about for weeks—then stalked back to her room like a zombie.

Finally they pull in. I grab my stuff and head toward the clownmobile that sits all candy-apple-red at the end of my driveway. It’s a car designed specifically for amusement or torture. Clowns, contortion artists, and Kirsten Lee Vanderhoff—these are the people who buy MINI Coopers.

Paige has shotgun so I stuff all five-foot-nine of me into the cramped, but thankfully empty, backseat.

“Is there time for a nap?” I groan.

Paige tries to hand a cup of hot coffee and a paper bag back to me. I wrestle with my duffel, stuffing it into the tiny space next to me, and then take the coffee and bag from her.

“Rise and shine,” Paige says, singsongy, “no naps allowed. The party has officially started.”

Paige is bright-eyed and bushy-tailed as usual: makeup on, hair done, a whole raring-to-go-I’m-just-happy-to-be-alive look on her face.

“What’s in the bag?” I ask, setting it on top of my duffel and taking a sip of the best coffee ever poured.

“Breakfast. A clementine and a muffin,” Paige says.

Kirsten looks at me through the rearview mirror and says, “Compliments of Paige Daniels, Future Soccer Mom of America.”

“Shut up, brat, or I’ll tell your mom you’re speeding again,” Paige says.

“No, I’m not,” Kirsten argues.

“Yes, you are,” I say, “and there’s a cop up ahead in the Malloy’s parking lot so slow down.”

“Shit,” Kirsten says, pressing down on the brake too quickly.

Kirsten already has four points on her license. If she gets two more, her parents are going to dump her from the insurance and bury her keys in the yard till she’s twenty. We pass the cop, all of us quiet and holding our breath, staring straight ahead like he can read our minds or something. He doesn’t pull out when we pass him, so we relax and Kirsten turns on some music. Paige pulls out a wet nap from her purse and wipes off the coffee that slopped down her hand. The hot coffee and the music and my friends’ stupidity—it all starts to work its magic and wake me up.

She’ll deny it, but Paige loves being the Type A Goody Two-Shoes of our merry trio. She’s always there to pick up the slack and remember the details. I mean, wet naps? Kirsten’s right—Paige is going to make some six-year-old soccer star very happy someday. Some people find her tireless perk and nerdish tendencies a turnoff. Not me. I dig nerdy little Paige. Especially since I skipped breakfast and have a three-hour bus ride ahead of me. I bite into my muffin. Banana nut. Yum.

We get to the school lot, park the car, throw our bags onto the luggage heap, and climb aboard our assigned bus, which is freezing cold. I grab us a seat as far back from the PTA chaperones as possible, a few seats up from the Callahan brothers, who are sprawled out in the backseat like two kings. Sean’s a junior and Devon’s a senior and they’re both on the wrestling team. They’re pretty good-looking; not drop-dead-gorgeous-hand-me-a-towel-because-I’m-drooling kind of hot, but decent enough.

“Ladies, plenty of room back here,” Sean says, patting his legs and winking at Kirsten. Of the three of us, Kirsten usually gets the most guy attention. She’s blond, and she has a nice body and a great smile. Paige is pretty cute, too. She’s super tiny—about five feet tall and ninety pounds, like a little bookworm pixie. She only just got contacts last year, after spending the first fourteen sporting thick-rimmed goggles. It took Kirsten and me ambushing her in the mall and dragging her into LensCrafters to finally make her ditch them. Still, even without the goggles, she radiates this I-heart-Harry-Potter type