Chapter 1

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I hear an alert from my TextFree app on my iPod across the room. Uh oh... I hope nobody heard that, I thought silently to myself. I casually walk over to my bedside table, enter my passcode, and open the TextFree app.

I stop for a minute and think silently to myself. Ok, it could be one of two people: Kendra or Michael.

Kendra is my best friend at the moment. Well, I call her my best friend but I'm not exactly sure who my friends really are. After all, I'm in the seventh grade. Everyone is fake to each other and drama is a part of every day life at my local junior high school. Anyways. Kendra is about 5'1" or 5'2", around my height. She is dark-skinned, slim, and quite the trouble-maker. She has been constantly getting into drama since I met her towards the end of my sixth grade year. She's loud, rude, and obnoxious. I bet you are wondering why I'm even friends with someone like her. Well the truth is that under all of that misguided anger and mouth there's a sweet, vulnerable girl that just wants to feel safe, loved, and important to someone. I was one of the few that actually recognized her for her true self.

But every rose has its thorn, right? Kendra is very mean to me and has been two-faced multiple times since I first met her. But she makes me feel safe. I can hide behind her so that no one notices how truly broken and exhausted I am. She knows the real me. And yes. She's taken advantage of me before. But she's one of the only friends I have. What am I supposed to do? Face the horrors of junior high alone? I chuckled to myself thinking about it. Of course not.

Michael is an eighth grader that I had recently exchanged numbers with over Facebook. He is brown-skinned, on the short side for his age (about 5'4" at 14), and very cute in my opinion. He still has his boyish looks compared to most guys in his grade, despite him being a year older than most. From the little I have talked to him online, he's a very sweet and genuine person. He is funny, smart, outgoing... Everything I am not.

I sighed.

You may be wondering why I am hoping nobody in my house heard the TextFree notification. To sum it up quickly, I'm on restriction. Trust me. It's not a big deal. It's for a stupid reason. Basically, my evil band teacher, Mrs. Baker, called home and twisted the truth to make my life at home miserable.

I know what you must be thinking. "Twisted the truth. Yeah, sure she did. The lady can't be that evil!" But believe me when I say this woman hates me.

This is her very first year teaching since graduating college and boy, I'll tell you! She thinks she is the sugar-honey-ice-tea! She constantly yells at my class because we "aren't good enough" for her. But in reality, she's not good enough for us. She has no idea what in the world she is doing and is no band teacher compared to Mr. Tucker, the band teacher from last year.

Sure. Blame it all on him. I thought subconsciously.

Continuing what I was saying earlier, I don't have my phone although I am still allowed to have my iPod touch. I am not allowed to have Facebook, Twitter, Kik Messenger, TextFree, or anything else of that nature. You see, my parents are very against social networking. My mother constantly reminds my older sister and I that, "Facebook is the devil." Dramatic. Yeah. I know.

My parents think that I am not mature enough to handle myself on the Internet as an adult should. I mean, who could blame them? I'm only 12. But I can't admit to them that they're right. I like to say I believe in trial and error in attempt to explain why I have disregarded all threats, ignored all potential consequences involved with my blatant disobedience, and why I have done exactly what they warned me not to do. Why not live a little?

The app finally loaded and I read the message. I begin to get a bit excited. It is from a number I didn't recognize.

Hey, it read. I think of what I should say. Should I just reply with hey?

No, you idiot! You don't know who it is. Ask first. Greet later.

Why can't I do both? I think as I open message. Ugh, why am I so weird? Arguing with myself and junk...

Hey. Who is this? Send. I wait for a few seconds then lock the screen. As I did this, I received another text.

Michael. Lol. What's up? Now I was really excited. An eighth grade boy just texted me! Eek!

Ok, Janet. Calm down. Play it cool. I think. No big deal, right? It's just a guy. An eighth grade guy. An eighth grade guy that's cute! Oh my God. And he just texted me on his own! Eeeeeep!

Haha. I obviously failed in my attempt at calming myself down. I begin typing my response.

Nothing really. Relaxing, you?
-Same. :)

He just sent me a smiley face. Is he flirting with me? Or maybe I'm over-thinking this. It's just a smiley face after all. It could mean something like he's happy to be relaxing or he's happy to be texting me... Whoop, there it is. It looks like I unintentionally got my hopes up. Oh well. Too late now.

You seem pretty happy about that. That's kind of funny, lol. I reply.
-Of course I am. I'm relaxing so I'm happy. What's funny about that? Lol.
-I don't know. It was funny to me. That's good though. Are you having fun?
-I am now.
-Why now?
-I'm finally talking to you. I blush as soon as I read the message. My heart skips a beat almost.

I probably shouldn't be this excited about talking to Michael. I've only known him for a few weeks and I've also never spoken to him in person, only online. But what does that matter? An eighth grade boy is texting me! And he's cute! It's pretty obvious I haven't had much experience talking to members of the opposite sex at this point. Sad, right?

What's that mean? I finally reply.
-Is it not obvious? I'm glad to finally be talking to you. Ah, I see he's very quick-witted. That's cute.
-Lol, aww. That's sweet. But it's just me... And there goes the fake confidence I had going for me up until this point. I silently cursed myself.

My stomach rumbles. Oops, I forgot that lunch was ready. I close the app, set my iPod on my dresser and exit the room.

"Oooooh! Something smells good." I exclaim as I walk into the kitchen. "What's the occasion, guys?"

"There is none. A burger sounded good so I made one then Mom decided it would be a good idea for me to make everyone else on this continent a burger, too." A voice says with a very dissatisfied tone. That was my older and only sister Jessica. She's such a joy, isn't she? She has a classic case of a disease I call "teenager."

I laugh. "Mom and I are the only other people home. So I think the rest of the continent might starve considering we only have four beef patties left."

"That's not my problem." She retorts. I roll my eyes. Jesus, who ever did anything to you? I think.

I begin fixing my plate starting with soaking my hamburger buns in ketchup and mayonnaise, adding some lettuce, the meat, and some tomato. I help myself to some French fries before exiting back to my bedroom. I walk down the hall and nearly trip and fall to my death over something. I look down.

"Oh, I'm sorry, Tigger." It was one of my dogs. "I didn't mean to step on you, buddy." I kneel down and pat his head. Then I continue the long trek down the short hallway to my room.

I enter and shut the door behind me. Then I situate myself comfortably atop my bed and use an old pillow as a lap table to rest my plate on. As I rub my hands together about to dig into my food, my iPod sounds declaring that I have a new message. I stretch to reach it on the bedside table and grab it.

I wake my screen. It reads: 3 new messages. Not one. Not two. But three.

Someone's popular today. I jokingly say to myself. I enter my passcode and open TextFree. I discover that one of the messages is from Kendra and the others are both from Michael. I decide to reply to Kendra first.

Hey girl. It reads.
-What's going on? Lol.

Michael's first message was in response to my last.

What's that supposed to mean? Apparently I wasn't replying fast enough for him since I was busy in the kitchen so he sent another saying: Janet? You there? Cute. Very cute. He must really want to talk to me, I assume. I smile, lock the screen, and begin eating.

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