Monday, December 31, 2012

End of the Year

Hello! This is the last time I'll be blogging in 2012. I would just like to spend this sentence to say how thankful and grateful I am for all the people who read this blog. I don't care if you've been with me since August or if you somehow landed on this blog today. You guys really cheer up a bad day or a boring winter break. It's nice knowing that people are reading what I write! I will miss 2012. I hope that everyone has a great start to the new year!

I love making cards and personalized gifts. I've written a friend a 20 page story. All the people in my friend group were tossed in the fabric of time and space where they were the main character of a fairy tale. However, this fairy tale is in a much different setting. For instance, I was Cinderella but stuck in France during the French revolution. The birthday girl was the main character of course and she had to save us all because she was the only one with knowledge about these particular stories. Another year I made a friend a jar full of more than 52+ quotes and nice sayings for all those bad days. On the outside I glued all sorts of fun clippings from magazines. I made a collage of magazine clippings for an English project too because I was just obsessed with that particular craft. During Christmas, secret santa, I made an interactive box game. Most of the time, I just draw cards to the best of my ability. Making gifts is both fun for me and the person receiving it. All it takes is some creativity.




My friend the elephant says hello! Here is the never before seen picture of my desk and computer! Welcome to the place where I write all my blog posts.  I did crop a lot of stuff out because there's a lot of random stuff everywhere. I can't manage to keep my desk clean. 

While randomly skimming through posts on Tumblr, I found something similar to the jar I made for my friend's birthday. This craft is a year long individual project. All you need is a jar, some sticky notes or slips of paper, and a pen. You don't need to be artsy or good with words. For the whole year, you write down little moments that made you smile or happy. You can put movie stubs or remains of an airplane ticket too. At the end of the year, empty all the stuff you put in. It's a simple but creative way to celebrate the past year. On Facebook, there's a nifty button that you can click to show you the highlights of you year. However, it's a brief little skim and doesn't detail all the feelings and little jokes that made you laugh. Memories are to be treasured but often we're too busy to dwell on the "irrelevant" details. I definitely will be doing this for 2013! The Internet is a home to so many different types of crafts and showcases of creativity. Pinterest is an especially good website for crafts as well as a ton of other things!

As a New Year's surprise, here's a new chapter of Coffee Shop! Enjoy! How appropriate that you get to meet my new characters in the new year. It's not quite 2013 but I'm already looking forward to 2013. Yay to 2013. Make sure to check out alotofpages.com.


A New Introduction 

Dani was actually sort of relieved that they moved out here to Nebraska. It had been a month since she moved. She started school and school really wasn’t much different from Sacramento. Her brother Lucas was still with them until he left for college, which he always rubbed in her face.  He only had half a year left while she was here to rot for practically forever. Dani unpacked the last of her boxes and stood in her tiny room. She missed her mother already. The white plaster paint was peeling off and the carpet was a dingy yellowish shade. Her father had relocated their family so that Cassandra could try to find a new job here. She apparently had some friends willing to stick their neck in for her. This situation said otherwise. Dani didn’t care though. Noah sent her plane tickets every weekend where she would escape to New York. That was part of the bargain for coming along with relatively no sass. They only time she’d be able to fly to San Francisco to see her mother was for Chase’s wedding. He had miraculously landed a job at an IT company in Silicon Valley and found the girl he wanted to marry. Dani was fuming with jealousy. As long as she was semi independent no one could touch her. Being semi independent meant having a constant source of money, a job. Dani groaned and flopped stomach first on to her air mattress. Dani went downstairs but heard angry voices and carefully retreated up the stairs. Cassandra and her father were always arguing now. Even Lucas rarely came out anymore. 
“Did you get the job yet?” Her father angrily asked. Currently, he didn’t have a job either. He left his stable situation so that Cassandra could pursue her dream. What her dream was Dani wasn’t sure. She saw her father call hospital after hospital after hospital but no one wanted him. 
“Honey, Susanna hasn’t contacted me yet. She said I was wonderful with that spark in my eye,” Cassandra said glaring up at him. Cassandra was still young, at just 25. Dani didn’t understand what was so attractive about her balding father. Why couldn’t she have chosen some younger doctor at that hospital?s They didn’t even have that much money, which was a pressing issue in their household. 
Dani heard snippets of their conversations. They were worried about Lucas’s college tuition since he was about to go to college in half a year. She wondered what happened from their status as the wealthy middle class. She sat on her air mattress and wondered when they’d be buying her a bed. She was the least of their concerns. Dani rolled out her suitcase and pushed all sorts of clothes in there. It seemed that all she was doing was packing and leaving and coming back just to leave the next day. Her flight was in an hour and it was time to head out. 
“Where do you think you’re going?” Cassandra shouted as she saw Dani pulling a suitcase down. Dani smugly pulled out her printed ticket that Noah bought for her. She had already flown out three time but every time Cassandra would make a fuss. Cassandra rolled her eyes but beneath her annoyed appearance Dani knew she was just jealous. She knew that Cassandra married her father so that she could spend his money and fly out to New York every weekend. 
“New York,” Dani replied casually. “I have friends there.” 
“How long are you going to be gone?” Her father had accepted the fact that Dani would never love him. Her bitterness grew with every rule he imposed on her. The best thing was to simply let her be. 
“The weekend,” she said while Cassandra dubiously stared at her suitcase. Lucas glared at her from the couch. Who was jealous now? She rode a cab with the couple bucks in her savings. It was a reminder that she was running low on funds too, just like her family. Noah met her at the airport and she was glad to finally be home. He drove to Le Cordon Bleu and hadn’t seen neither Vanessa nor Claire for a whole year. Noah slipped out so that they could catch up. 
“Where are you living?” 
“Nebraska,” Dani said sighing. She had some Perrier in her hand as she flopped over on Claire’s red couch. Nothing had changed at all. 
“So Sasha left and I am so terribly sorry,” Claire said formally apologizing for the millionth time. Dani sat up. 
“It’s okay, really. It wasn’t your fault Claire. Sasha was just a terrible person.” Vanessa nodded in agreement. Claire made virgin cocktails and they painted their nails. All three of them went out to the city to get their hair done. It was implicit that Dani needed a haircut. After their trip, everyone was tired. It had been a school day after all. Claire went to go change into her pajamas. 
Dani wondered how to tell them. They would be able to help her for sure. Vanessa had already changed into her pajamas. They were all sleeping in Claire’s floor today. 
“Nessa, do you know any people here offering a job?” Claire ran out shocked at the word job
“Dani, you can’t work yet,” Claire said grimacing. “You could work here, at the Academy.”
“My parents won’t let me live in New York,” Dani said heaving a huge sigh. All the people she wanted to be with weren’t in Nebraska. 
“I have an idea,” Vanessa said suddenly squealing with joy. Claire returned to change her pants. 
“I’m so desperate. I want to be independent from Cassandra but I can’t even think about it until I have money to back it up.” 
“There’s this really hot blogger who is looking for an assistant. The best part is that the job is through the Internet which means you can be in Nebraska.” 
“I’m not looking for someone to date,” Dani said rolling her eyes. 
“Not hot like attractive, Dan. Hot like the next big thing.” This started to register in her brain. It could be the way out. 
“You’ve got to fill out an application while we’re all together,” Claire said hurriedly bringing her MacBook from her room. Claire eagerly turned her computer on and Dani was slightly frightened by how fast everything was moving. 
“You want a job right?” Vanessa asked again. Dani was shaking but she knew this was the opportunity of a lifetime. 
“Yes,” Dani said as Claire clicked open Safari. She had bookmarked the blog and Dani wondered why she hadn’t heard of it yet. Claire rapidly clicked through some of the links until she came upon the application page. There were already millions of comments and Dani wondered how in the world she would secure a job like that. 
“What kind of blog is it?” She nervously asked. Claire looked at her in surprise. 
“You haven’t heard of it?” She whipped the computer around to give Dani a better view of the page. It was a fashion blog called Rissa Says. Dani didn’t know how a fashion blog got to be so popular. 
“Is she famous?”
“That’s the thing,” Vanessa said with excitement as if they were discussing a top-secret project. These were her friends all right. “Nobody really knows who Rissa Hass is. But she’s brilliant, Dani. Even Lillian reads her blog.” 
“Does she only do fashion?”
“Oh, no she does this whole advice column too. That’s where Rissa Says came from. She understands the guy’s mind so well and I’ve even see Ryan peeking at her blog sometimes.” 
“Okay, so let’s start with this application. Name? Danielle Hastings,” Vanessa said filling in the information for her. They were more excited than she was. She hadn’t even read this blog or heard of it until now. She missed New York. She wondered why anyone would want to hire her for some chic blog? She didn’t even hear the news until maybe two months later. 
“Where do you live?” Vanessa asked making a face. “We can’t say Nebraska.” 
“Why not?” Dani said for the first time annoyed. Wasn’t that the whole reason why this job was perfect? 
“We could say San Francisco, right?” Claire said looking carefully at her. “Your mom lives there and your brother lives there.” 
“Why can’t you just say Nebraska?”
“Don’t you want the job? You’re competing with girls from London and Paris. Do you really want to say Nebraska?”  They seemed so disappointed with her and she sighed.
“They’re going to want to hear about the happenings in San Fran then and I have no way of knowing.”
“Fine, fine, we can put Nebraska,” Claire said. She didn’t want her friends fighting. She was just happy to see Dani again. Dani seemed appeased and Vanessa gave up. She just wanted what was best for Dani after all. Dani answered the remaining questions truthfully and clicked send without thinking. It was too late to change anything now. What was done was done. 
“You guys will put in a good word for me right?”
“Of course,” Vanessa said pulling out her phone. “I’m pretty sure I know someone who knows Rissa Hass.” 
“So tomorrow I snagged tickets to this,” Claire squealed excitedly. She shut down the computer and it was ignored. “Comets are supposed to fall and we’re going to watch it!” 
“Isn’t that a couples’ event?” Vanessa asked. Her smile was wiped off. 
“I invited Stephen and he accepted. I thought you guys could talk it over there. Nessa, stop being so tough.”
“He stood me up!” 
“You tried to sleep with his friend.” Vanessa sighed. 
“I’m not going.” Dani’s excited expression disappeared as well. She had been looking forward to it since Claire won the tickets at a gala three months ago. 
“Can’t you ignore your pride to find love?” 
“I’m not prideful,” Vanessa said. “Good night.” Claire turned the light off and no more was said about anything. Maybe things weren’t the same. 
Mars Houghton stared at her computer screen. She was sipping a cranberry spritzer with her legs thrown atop her marble white desk. It was new but she didn’t care for it all that much. Her curly blonde hair was short, just like her. She wasn’t exceptional pretty but had the kind of beauty that was unforgettable and simplistic. Her room was small and modern with white walls and wooden floors that smelt of pine.  Her room was rather clean and she was happy that it would be like this even for a moment. All her pencils were neatly gathered in a metal cup at the side of her desk. Her clothes weren’t strewn everywhere but rather hung up with all the hangers facing the same direction. Her books had somehow all squeezed in to the maple bookshelves but she knew that wouldn’t last even for a day. She was always reading and that was the secret to good writing. Already there was a book that caught her eye from the edge of her second shelf. It was lodged between an ancient Harry Potter book and a dictionary she never opened twice. There were a couple picture frames hanging on the wall next to the bookshelves. She glanced over at them briefly again. She was staring back at a younger her who was smiling with a family. They had been in Spain just a year before her parents ran away, without her and her older sister, Jenna. Usually it was the kids who ran away from their parents but this time, her parents had unexpectedly taken off. Her sister had been devastated after that and was getting into all sorts of trouble. Now it was better and stable. They lived off her grandpa’s inheritance. Zed O’Shea was an old man now. He was rumored to have all sorts of wealth but Mars didn’t really believe it. He still lived with Lucy White, his high school sweetheart. They actually had grown old together and Mars was envious every time they sent postcards of how happy they were. Zed had pitied them like everyone else. Especially now that Jenna had a kid, there was no way to deny the money. That would change soon. 
“Mars-y,” Daisy, Jenna’s daughter said without knocking. Daisy was a cute kid and she was almost three. 
“Daze, can’t you see that I’m working?” Jenna accused Mars of ruining Daisy’s vocabulary by introducing nicknames such as Daze. 
“Steph-y is here to see you,” Daisy said with a cute smile. She added a y to everyone’s name. Mars froze and stared at the mirror on the closet door. He could’ve at least texted her. Mars stared at her iPhone but there were no new messages or phone calls as of two minutes ago. They lived in West Village now but had grown up as Brooklyn girls. Stephen lived in West Village too. It made them neighbors but he never came around spontaneously anymore. Mars pushed her cranberry spritzer away and closed her computer screen. The door rang and she ran as fast as she could in her new gold Louboutin boots. These had been a birthday present from her Zed. Jenna was already standing at the door with a smirk on her face. Their apartment was tiny but neither of them minded. Jenna had long streaming blonde hair and freckles all over her face. Mars had been glad that she hadn’t inherited her father’s freckles. Jenna was a mom now and it showed. 
“Stephen! Hey, ” Mars said almost chirping like a bird. Jenna laughed at her but pulled Daisy along to their room. 
“Hey yourself, Mars,” he said with an affectionate smile. Nothing ever changed about his appearance. He always had short brown hair gelled up in a special way. He had the most gorgeous blue eyes ever. Stephen had a lot of freckles but she loved each and every one of them. She had once joked that he should be a model. He said no, of course. 
“What’s up? Do you want a cranberry spritzer?” Stephen half smiled before sitting down on their fold out couch. It was West Village but they still didn’t have enough money to furnish it however they pleased. 
“Vanessa was just telling me how in those are. I’ll pass today though.” She sighed in defeat. He didn’t even know what they were. She used to be happy that he at least tried to accommodate her but now, he always brought Vanessa Atkins up. “You know her right?” She nodded. She did know Vanessa, slightly. They had brushed shoulders at some event or another that Zed mandated she go to. Vanessa had actually been quite rude to her. She had told her off saying people like her didn’t belong in these places. That was when everything started. It was actually Stephen’s idea that she start a blog. 
“Did you hear me?” Stephen asked glancing at her curiously. 
“What?”
“Someone told me you were some kind of relationship guru. I need help, Mars.” She froze. 
“What? Who told you that? Do you see me in a happy relationship?” 
“You were,” he countered. She stood up and grabbed the cranberry spritzer from her room. That had always been a sore spot in their friendship. A year ago, she was dating a guy named Bobby. He was ordinary and average and no one seemed to understand why. She kept that relationship under wraps mostly from fear of Zed finding out. Stephen never liked Bobby saying that she was getting carried away. She accused of him of being jealous and she was right. Bobby broke up with her saying that he had found a new girl. This new girl was 100% ordinary, like him, and that pushed her self-esteem all the way back to zero. 
“You have been too then. So go help yourself.”
“Please, Mars? Please, for me?” She sighed. How could she say no? She pretended to think about it and took a sip of her drink. 
“Okay, fine. What do you want me to do?” 
“She hates me.”
“Who hates you?” Mars asked with a sweet smile. She knew he’d say Vanessa and didn’t know why she was so eager to hurt her own heart. 
“Vanessa, silly, I’ve been telling you about her for ages. I need a way to get her back. I accidentally stood her up and she tried to sleep with Chris.” Mars laughed. 
“She tried to sleep with Chris,” she repeated. Chris was a nobody around here. Vanessa must have been seriously hurt to go to Chris. Chris probably thought it was Christmas. 
“So what should I do?” She knew exactly what he should be doing. 
“I don’t know. I’m busy you know.”
“I can pay you!”
“Do you think I want your money?” There was an awkward silence. “Fine, describe the situation. I guess friends are free.” He cracked a smile. She listened to his entire story and wanted nothing more than to ask him to leave. 
“Um, have you apologized yet?”
“Why should I?”
“Girls are always right, Stephen. Keep sending her flowers and we’ll see how that works. Girls love jewelry. Being in a jewelry giving-receiving relationship is important. What’s her address? I’ll send it!” Mars felt a lump of guilt in her throat. He beamed up at her positively. She felt it again. Maybe deep down she did really want to help him. He scrawled it on a piece of paper.  
“One more question. I have to go soon. Do you know of that blog Rissa Says? It’s supposedly insanely popular. Even I’ve heard of it.” Mars froze again. Why was he mentioning that and his relationship help in the same conversation?
“Of course! All the girls at my school love it. Why?”
“It’s a long story but Vanessa has a friend named Dani, Danielle Hastings. She wanted a position on that blog site. I heard it’s hiring.” 
“Why are you telling me this?”
“Do we have to keep pretending? I know you’re the supposed Rissa Hass, Marissa. You could’ve chosen a completely different name, like Lucy.”
“Lucy is my grandmother’s name. Have you told Vanessa that you know Rissa Hass?”
“No, I can keep secrets, Mars.” She rolled her eyes at him. “Why aren’t you just be Rissa Hass all the time?” Her heart sank. Maybe it would’ve been better for everyone if she were Rissa. Rissa was Mars’s perception of perfection. She had everything in life that a girl could possibly want. Combined with Mars’s smart humor, everyone loved her blog. Maybe if she Rissa, Stephen would’ve wanted to still date her. Wasn’t that what his question was getting at. 
“Being Rissa is an escape from being Marissa Houghton. It’s not something permanent.” 
“At this rate, it will be,” he said in his serious voice. “I’m serious, Mars. I don’t want you to get hurt.” 
“Just worry about yourself, will you?” He seemed taken aback by her sudden change of mood. “Go worry about Vanessa. I don’t need you.” He had hurt her already and it had nothing to do with Rissa. 
“Mars, can you just tell me what’s wrong?” Yes, she thought. You don’t love me, she wanted to say. Instead she sighed. 
“I have a post due soon and you came without warning. Hey, question since you had so many for me. Would you date a girl like Rissa Hass?” She wondered why she wanted this answered. 
“Sure,” he said in that easygoing way he dealt with everything. Didn’t he know everything was not games and fun? Some people had to deal with reality. She had made up an elaborate alibi while he never decided to live in the real world. 
“Would you date a Mars Houghton?” Her question was met with silence. 
“Mars, what’s the matter?” Was that a no? Her hopeful expression was cast away. She didn’t even know why she had impulsively done that. Actually, she knew very well why. She wanted to hear him say that she was pretty, beautiful, and better than Rissa. 
“It’s just a question. Answer it.” She never usually pressed Stephen on anything. He wore his clothes how he wanted to and never bought the shoes that she suggested. 
“Can I remind you that you dumped me?” His voice was soft and that hurt he felt so long ago was still a fresh wound she realized. It was four years ago. He was always to read what she was thinking. “And you chose Bobby.”  
“So is that a no?”  
“It’s an I don’t know.”
“Okay well good to know. Thanks. Bye.” She wondered why she couldn’t think before saying something. That’s why she liked writing. You could always delete the stray sentences and thoughts that didn’t belong. 
“Fine, fine, I’ll see you around.” Mars felt slightly relieved when he was gone. She went back to room only to see that Jenna was waiting for her. 
“What?” She snapped. She turned on her computer and waited for the screen to load. 
“Just tell him Mars,” Jenna said with a smile. “I hate seeing you setting yourself up.”
“He knows, Jenna. He knows I’m Rissa. I don’t know how but he just does.”
“I wasn’t talking about that silly,” Jenna said with a laugh. “You’re in love with that boy.” It hurt hearing the words out loud.
“No I’m not,” Mars said too quickly and too defensively. “He likes Vanessa Atkins anyways.” Jenna shrugged and left. She knew that Stephen didn’t like her and never could. They were friends and had always been friends. She thought back to seventh grade. He had brought that up. It was the past to her, until now. They were going to the same school back then, it was four years ago when she had rejected him. He was heartbroken but they managed to get over it and stay friends. But maybe she underestimated the hurt he had felt then. He was one of her closest friends and the worst thing she could’ve possibly done was fall for him. She opened up her blog and wanted to laugh at herself. Why were people reading this? It had started as a personal way to vent and give sarcastic advice. Now it had grown to include the fashion world. What would they say if they saw her, Marissa Houghton, writing right now? How to Say Sorry if the Guy/Girl of Your Dreams Ignores You she titled her next post. It was meant for Stephen. She wrote quickly and pressed submit. Mars turned her attention to all the applications in her box; four million and twenty thousand thirty four people had submitted their names and filled out the form the computer told her. She needed an assistant just to scroll though all the people who had applied. Mars searched for Danielle Hastings. There it was. Mars was about to delete until she saw the word Nebraska. That was where her grandmother had grown up. She opened the full application and started reading. This girl was honest unlike Catherine Jones or Lulu Schrodinger. Mars was frankly disgusted by Lulu. They went to the same school although Lulu never paid even the slightest attention to her. She was filthy rich but didn’t have an ounce of talent in her. Mars clicked the reject button and saw with a bit of pleasure as two rejection emails were sent out across the web. Dani was still on her mind but Mars scrolled through some of the other applicants. 
She wrote a letter and tucked in some wilted flowers. Mars got up from her chair and walked down to the post office two feet away from the apartment. 
“I’m sorry,” she said and sent the letter. Would Stephen hate her? How had he even found out that she was Rissa Hass? She couldn’t bear to see Stephen with that awful Vanessa. She was saving him from unnecessary grief and sorrow. Did she really believe that? Mars looked into the mailbox and saw that her letter was already hiding in the huge pile of other people’s letters. It was too late to do anything. She walked away wondering how she became so petty. 
Lulu Schrodinger was still pissed off on that Monday morning. She had been sitting on the terrace of their Park Avenue duplex enjoying a nice cup of tea for a lovely Sunday brunch. It seemed idyllic and in a way it was. Lulu always got everything she wanted, which included the exclusive job as Rissa’s personal assistant. Her long hazel hair was curled and she was wearing a Juicy tracksuit. It seemed like the perfect thing to wear as if she hadn’t been expecting anything. She opened her email on her iPhone just to see that there was an email from Rissa Says. Lulu opened it and read that she had been declined, rejected, and not wanted. Lulu’s world froze around her. How could this happen? There was no way she could’ve been rejected. Lulu wanted to scream. But she didn’t, because of her stepbrother. Her stepbrother Gregory Schrodinger was on the couch reading something. He had declined on joining her Sunday brunch. Gregory was probably one of the most attractive guys in New York and she had been with a lot of them. Ryan Nichols was untouchable on the social ladder although Gregory had somehow managed to become friends with him. Lulu couldn’t accept the fact that Gregory was higher on this imaginary social ladder. Gregory had refused to even so much as introduce the two of them. Come to think of it, all of Gregory’s friends were attractive. She had her little eye on Noah Harrington. He was positively single and had been for a while. Lulu wondered why Gregory didn’t have a girlfriend. 
“Dina, I’m telling you. I don’t understand why I got that email.” They were walking down the hallway to their next class. Lulu attended the very prestigious Pemm Wimberley School for Talented Girls, number one girls’ private school in the country.  It was a place for people like her. “It was probably a mistake. I heard more than a million people submitted applications. She probably meant to check then girl under me or above me. Do you think I should send her an email?” 
“She’s probably jealous that you’re prettier than her,” Dina said like a loyal friend. It could be a possibility. Lulu had actually never seen a picture of Rissa Hass. There wasn’t a general description either. Of all the blogs she frequented, Rissa was the most secretive about her life. Her fashion pictures never had her face in them and she usually just asked other people to model for her. Lulu wondered why. Having a blog was all about exposing yourself to the public eye. Maybe she should have a blog. Everyone had one these days. Blogs were the new accessories. Rissa carefully exposed details about her own life. It was obvious that Rissa chose parts of her life to talk about. She was happily in a relationship with someone named Bobby. There was no last name. Last names were important here, or anywhere once you were slightly successful. She changed her own last name to Schrodinger for a reason. Her mother had been hesitant but she was won over with a simple smile. It was obvious that not including Bobby’s last name was a safety measure but Lulu couldn’t help but be curious to who was lucky enough to date Rissa. She was also curious to whom Rissa could land. Lulu wondered what she’d give to be Rissa Hass. She thought about it for a second before deciding that she’d give up everything to be Rissa Hass. 
 “Have you gotten your letter yet?” 
“No, not yet. If you didn’t have a chance, I know I won’t.” Dina hung her head with a wistful sigh.
“Don’t give up yet. But if you do get the position, it’s mine.” Dina smiled. She was smiled when Lulu was smiling and frowned when Lulu frowned. “Ooh, loser alert.” They stood by the lockers as she glared at Marissa Mars Houghton. They went to an all girls’ school and it bred competition amongst the elite. The one girl who wasn’t particularly serious about winning anything was Mars. Lulu couldn’t figure out if it was because Mars thought she was better than everyone or if she really just didn’t care. Lulu guessed that it was the first. Mars was running frantically to class. Lulu stared down and saw the Gucci shoes that were on display when she last went to Nordstrom on Friday night with Dina. Dina seemed to notice the shoes as well. Even Lulu had refrained from buying those because of the mammoth cost. It seemed wrong to buy them when children elsewhere didn’t have shoes at all; and the fact that her credit card had been temporarily cancelled. Gregory actually tattled on her and the one shopping trip she went on so that she could impress one of his friends who was coming over. It was all a waste in the end but she couldn’t believe Gregory’s nerve. But Lulu knew that she couldn’t stay mad at Gregory. Her hurt melted away as she stared at his face. It wasn’t that strange either because they were only half siblings. Who knew when her mother wanted a divorce? Gregory was perfect, maybe beyond perfect. It wasn’t fair. Maybe he was gay.  
“Where’d you get those shoes?” She saw Mars actually wince at her. 
“I don’t have time for you,” she said and ran off. How dare she run off like that? Didn’t she know who Lulu was? Today was Monday and that meant Dina had violin lessons and couldn’t come over. Gregory however was completely available. Maybe he was bringing friends over today. She realized he was coming home alone as they both walked the stretch of the sidewalk together. Why didn’t they ever talk like real siblings? He opened the door for her and she smiled. This was a good sign. She pulled up the Rissa Says blog on her iPhone. Rissa Hass had recently started making weekly quizzes. 
“Greg, let’s do this quiz!” He glared at her. “Please?”
“Fine,” he sighed. He had gotten to know what kind of girl Lulu well in a very short amount of time. There were only two types of girls and she was a high maintenance girl. She needed attention twenty-four seven and everything needed to be centered on her. It was impossible to say no to her. It was easier and more time efficient just to say yes. Gregory wondered why his father was attracted to someone like Lulu’s mother. He sat on the couch and was ready for her proceed. 
“Will you introduce me to Ryan?” She smiled up at him. She could see him cracking. Soon, his face seemed to say. 
“That’s not part of your stupid quiz.”
“I thought it was worth a shot.” 
“He has a girlfriend and I won’t have my stepsister become a home wrecker.” It bothered her that he always added the step in front of sister. He also always addressed her as if she were a little baby even though they were the same age. She had researched all about Claire. Claire was famous after the whole missing O’Shea debacle. Why couldn’t have that happened to her?
“What kind of girl do you prefer? There are options this time,” she said glowering at him. Their last quiz didn’t go so well when they were no answer choices. “A, quiet and sensitive. B, loud and extroversive. Or C, exotic and unique.” He bit his lip. It was a nervous habit that he did whenever he was nervous. It was obvious he was going to choose A. 
“Don’t they know that unique and exotic are the same?” 
“So are you choosing C?” 
“Isn’t there an other category?” 
“Well describe that and I’ll pick for you.” She was ready to press B. Everyone always lied on these quizzes. 
“Who makes these quizzes?” How many questions was he going to ask?
“Rissa Hass! C’mon, you’ve seen her blog at least haven’t you?” 
“I don’t know, no? I thought you hated her.” That was another thing about Gregory. He had near perfect memory and remembered every annoying little thing she said. He was a genius and not many guys were both smart and good-looking. Gregory lacked social skills though but she didn’t really mind. If he was extremely awkward towards other girls, he was all hers. 
“I do hate her, Greg. But she’s so perfect and I need to read her stuff just to be in the loop.” 
“The loop,” he said in that annoying nit picky way. “What’s so great about this Rissa Hass anyway? Do you know anything about her?”
“Of course! I read her whole life.”
“Tell me five arbitrary facts about her. What color is her hair? Does she play sports? Has she played an instrument before? Where does she live?” 
“You don’t post that stuff on a blog,” she said blowing a raspberry. She knew that sounded stupid but she just wanted him to finish the quiz. He didn’t say anything else and Lulu refrained from giving him a quizzical look. That could’ve started a whole other fight. 
“Um, fine, I’ll pick A.” She knew him too well. 
“Okay, describe your most recent girlfriend, same options. Have you ever had a girlfriend?” He seemed offended by her. 
“Of course I have. Um, B.” What? He didn’t even pause of think about it as he had with the previous question. His last girlfriend was loud? She had to know who she was. 
“Who is it? Do I know her?” 
“Her name was Julie. I met her in France.” He was even part French! Well, okay maybe not part French but had lived in France. That was so romantic. Maybe he did know how to treat girls.
“Perfect date: planned or spontaneous?” 
“Spontaneous.” She hadn’t expected that one. She read all the other questions and he complied without much resistance. 
“Okay, your results came! You’re not ready for love. Here’s what Rissa says. You are the type of guy who is always conflicted. Your brain thinks you want a nice introvert of a girlfriend but you never choose that girl. You long for surprise and mystery. Why don’t you sort yourself out before looking for your next girlfriend? It’s obvious you aren’t dating anyone currently.” Well, she would wait for him until he was ready to open his heart. 
“Okay,” he said. He stood up and left as if he had completed a moral obligation. She sighed. She would never become close siblings with him. It was obvious that she was the perfect match. 
Claire went upstairs into Vanessa’s floor. Her mother had just called her. There was apparently some important family business that she just had to take care of. Claire was tired of family business. She already learned all she ever wanted to during the winter. She was happy knowing that she was the daughter of Benjamin and Natasha O’Shea. Her grandfather, Zed O’Shea, rarely ever saw her but was always kind when he did. Zed was married to a lovely lady named Lucy White and had been for over fifty years. She wanted to be exactly like them when she was his age. A shudder crawled up her spine just thinking about becoming Zed’s age. She wondered why she didn’t see him more. Claire shrugged and opened the door without knocking. 
Vanessa was crying. She had never seen Vanessa cry before. There was a box of tissues in her lap. What happened? Claire sat down next to her immediately. 
“What’s wrong?” 
“He sent me this,” Vanessa said showing Claire the letter indicating that he wanted to break up with her and some wilted flowers. Maybe they were the same wilted flowers from their horrible date. “I haven’t spoken to him since forever and I guess I won’t be.” 
“That’s silly, Vanessa. You have to call him. For me?” 
“Fine,” she said without any fight. She picked up the phone. Claire had never seen Vanessa this defeated. She was always eager to get her revenge or at least form a ridiculous plan outlining her revengeful plans. 
“Hello?” It was unmistakably Stephen. 
“Stephen, do you hate me?”
“What no? What happened?”
“You sent me a horrible letter.” She started crying again. “You sent me wilted flowers too. What is with you and wilted flowers?” He didn’t seem to understand what she was saying. 
“I didn’t send you anything,” he said again. He didn’t even sound apologetic. He wouldn’t even recognize what he had done wrong. Claire made a tsk tsk sound. “Are you there with friends?” 
“So what if I am? I’m just with my friend Claire.”
“Stop making her cry,” Claire interjected. Vanessa glared at her. 
“I seriously didn’t send you anything. I was actually planning on going to the jewelry shop tomorrow afternoon.” Vanessa could just tell that he was lying. He wasn’t planning on doing anything but now he didn’t want her to permanently erase him. She had given him so many chances and each time, he let her down. What was she supposed to do? “Wait.” He said. Something about his tone was different. 
“Mars,” he murmured. What did that mean? “Nessa, I think I know who sent you that. It wasn’t me I promise. Let’s meet up. I never apologized properly for that night.” 
“Okay,” she meekly said. 
Gregory opened the door and smiled when Stephen came. Lulu was out and that was the only reason why Stephen had agreed to hang out. They both agreed that it wasn’t a good idea for anyone to come over when Lulu was home. Lulu was such a nuisance in his life. She was one of the reasons why he never ever wanted a girlfriend, her and Julie. He found it much easier to deal with girls on one-night stands. There was no commitment and none of that annoying business that came with having a girlfriend. These girls, the one-night stand types, just wanted a good time. That was something he could do, easily. They didn’t want flowers sent everyday, there were no arguments, and there was no reason to even meet their friends and family. It was perfect. He stared at Stephen and his long expression and decided once again that having a girlfriend was the worst kind of slavery one could willingly agree to. He kept thinking about that stupid test Lulu made him take. It was hauntingly accurate. Maybe that was why girls liked this Rissa Hass so much: she was truthful, frank, and sarcastic. There was no sugarcoating even if it meant hurt feelings. He wondered what it’d be like to date Rissa or maybe just to spend a day with her. 
“Dude what happened to you?” 
“I don’t know what do, Greg.” 
“What happened? Should I call Ryan?” Ryan had a lot more experience in the girl department. He had somehow managed to keep his relationship with Claire O’Shea even through everything they’d been through. 
“Nah, he’s busy.” Gregory didn’t ask how Stephen knew that. “This girl is out to ruin my life.” Gregory couldn’t help but laugh. He turned on Black Ops and handed Stephen a controller. 
“Who is she? Lulu is trying to hunt me down. It’s getting harder and harder. She made me take a stupid quiz today from that blog Rissa Says.” Stephen looked haunted for a moment. Maybe Vanessa was as obsessed about it as Lulu was. 
“I asked an old family friend to help me and she agreed but practically ruined my relationship with Vanessa. I knew they weren’t friends but,” Stephen continued to say. 
“I don’t get why you guys are so crazy to have girlfriends in the first place. It’s all about the friends with benefits,” Gregory said distracted by the game. The Schrodinger family was old money. They still had a lot of money but they weren’t as desperate as the people with new money. His parents had never once brought up marriage and never tried to match him up with anyone. He knew how much Ryan suffered from being chained to Vanessa all the time. He had heard such nasty things about her but of course he didn’t say any of them to Stephen. 
“I like stability and getting to know a girl, Greg.” Stephen wasn’t sure when Gregory started to be so anti-relationship. Everyone had predicted in middle school that he would be one of the sweetest and most romantic guys ever. It was Ryan who was most likely to never have a long-term relationship. Life was strange. It was probably after his year in France as an exchange student. “Not everyone is like Julie.” Stephen saw Gregory stiffen. The Julie fiasco had happened years ago and yet his mind was still lingering on it. Gregory had met her in a bookstore. He knew a little bit of French but not enough to have a conversation with a pretty girl. He had been in the bookstore trying to learn French or at least find a good book on basic conversational French. She agreed to help him and one thing led to another. He obviously didn’t mean much to her when she decided she wanted to date someone else. She said adieu and was gone from his life. Ever since then, he didn’t want to like someone more than they liked him. It wasn’t good to put yourself out there just to get hurt. 
“How’s that cousin of yours?” Gregory had known Kiana York a little bit but had never pursued her much. She was easy in the fact that she wanted him. She made that too obvious and he wasn’t interested any more. Kiana caused a whole lot of ruckus before disappearing to Boston. She never visited and had good reason not to. Once you were disgraced from New York, you could never really come back.   
“Eh, we don’t talk much.” 

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