Chapter 1: Interloper
I’ve been obsessed lately with trying to pinpoint the exact moment when I got redefined.
That’s one of my grandmother’s favorite words. It basically means defined again. Define means to make clear; mark the limits of; identify the essential qualities or meaning of. Before my life changed from fairly decent to really bad, my self-definition was pretty straightforward.
Brett McCarthy: Only Child; Only Granddaughter; Vocab Ace; Best Eighth-Grade Corner Kicker in Maine; Diane’s Best Friend.
Then came the redefinition.
Brett McCarthy: Deadest Meat in Maine and Possibly the Planet; Practically Friendless; Violent; Suspended.
Can you blame me for wanting to sort this out?
It all got started like any other day: at The Junior.
As in “Mescataqua Junior High School,” the big green letters on the front brick wall. Kit was the one who noticed that every morning Diane stood directly under the word “Junior.” Never under “Mescataqua,” never under “School.” But perfectly positioned between the “i” and “o” of “Junior,” leaning against the wall, her backpack slung over one slender shoulder.
Diane insisted she wasn’t doing it on purpose, but once Kit pointed it out, it got to be our thing. “See you at The Junior!” we’d say each afternoon, instead of “See you tomorrow!” Or “Meet me at The Junior!” if we planned to get together after school.
Diane, Kit, me, and (unfortunately) Jeanne Anne. Except for Jeanne Anne, the interloper, we’d known each other forever, from as far back as preschool. And even though we all had other friends outside the group, and sometimes got into really bad fights among ourselves, there was never any question about us. We were the first four chairs at the lunch table; the first four names on the Instant Messenger Buddy List; the first four numbers on speed dial.
Interloper: intruder; interferer. someone who moves to Mescataqua in seventh grade and attaches herself to your BFF.
Within the group, Diane Pelletier was my first and best friend, even though she’s nothing like me. For one thing, she’s beautiful. She has licorice-shiny, long black hair and lavender eyes. I have short frizzy hair that my mother describes as “strawberry blond.” That’s a nice term for “light brown with red highlights.” Trust me, it’s a noncolor.
Diane is really smart and really funny in a quiet way. I’m funny too, but in a loud, opinionated way. Diane can’t catch or kick a ball without injuring herself. I’m totally into sports. Diane looks great in clothes, and people tend to copy what she wears. I’m a wrinkle magnet and break out in a stress rash when I enter a mall.
Despite all this she was my best. We slept over at each other’s houses at least twice a month, talking all night. We agreed about most things. Except one. Diane was a little more tolerant and a lot more patient than I was when it came to jerks. Like Jeanne Anne.
For instance, on the morning of Monday, October 15th, she came rushing up to The Junior practically shaking with excitement. Kit was filling us in on what had happened during the previous night’s episode of her favorite TV reality drama.
“You guys!” Jeanne Anne burst out, interrupting the story. “You are not going to believe this!”
“Good, then don’t bother telling us,” said Kit. She had just been describing the giant, maggot-like insects that members of Team A, on the verge of starvation in Fiji, were probably going to eat on the next episode. Kit tends to share my opinion of Jeanne Anne, and assumed that whatever she had to say was less interesting . . . and more annoying . . . than maggots.
“No, really,” insisted Jeanne Anne. She faced Diane. “Diane, your telephone number is 555-1749, right?”
“Last time I checked.” Diane smiled.
“Okay,” Jeanne Anne said. She took one of her dramatic pauses. “Bob Levesque’s number is 555-1748.”
Blank stares. Silence. Finally broken by Kit.
“That’s really fascinating, Jeanne Anne. Now back to the maggots . . .”
“Aah!” Jeanne Anne cried in exasperation. “Hello, people! Am I the only one who realizes what an amazing coincidence this is?”
“Yes, you are,” replied Kit. The bell rang at this point, and we began moving toward the main entrance.
“Oh, c’mon!” Jeanne Anne pleaded. She was getting whiny now, and a little loud. People were turning to look at us. “Remember that thing you used to do with the phones? Don’t pretend this isn’t an awesome discovery!”
Even Diane realized it was time to shut her up. Broad- casting our old prank in the middle of the school lobby was not cool. Diane pulled Jeanne Anne close.
“Keep your voice down,” she hisssed. “We’ll meet at study hall and talk about it.”
Satisfied, Jeanne Anne smiled and headed off to her locker.
“Who told her about the Phone Thing?” I asked Diane as soon as Jeanne Anne was out of earshot. “And why is she looking up Bob Levesque’s telephone number?”
“Oh . . . you know her!” Diane shrugged. “She’s always crushin’ on someone.”
“She is a certifiable jerk. A complete idiot!” I sputtered.
I was upset. I get klutzy . . . and loud . . . when I’m upset. So the “idiot” came out with a bit more volume than necessary, and at the same time I managed to smash my size-nine sneakers down on someone’s toes.
“Ouch! Hey, watch it!”
The toes belonged to a pair of electric-blue eyes. The eyes went with some sun-bleached, tousled blond hair and perfect white teeth without a trace of orthodontia. In other words, I had just crushed the foot of none other than Bob Levesque, resident Greek God. And called him an idiot in the middle of a crowded hallway.
Bob looked at me and Diane, annoyed. Then, some- thing . . . either my comically guilty expression or Diane’s beautiful face . . . made him change his mind, because he grinned.
Excerpted from Brett McCarthy: Work In Progress by Maria Padian. Copyright © 2008 by Maria Padian. Excerpted by permission of Knopf Books for Young Readers, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.