Chapter 9

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It turned out Alexander hadn’t been stalking me, which was good news. Not being stalked was always good news. In fact, he’d even been invited by Amelia to tag along with us, which, apparently, she hadn’t found the need to explain beforehand. Probably because she knew I wouldn’t have turned up at all if she had.

“Sorry I never mentioned it,” Amelia winced as all four of us strolled through the mall. “I just thought that if I did…well, you know…certain people wouldn’t be quite so…” She threw me a raised-eyebrow look and mouthed the word ‘happy’.

I mouthed back, ‘If sorry could fix all mistakes, we wouldn’t need the court system’.

Alexander continued to look confused while I cleared my throat loudly. “So, what’s the plan now?” I said, changing the subject.

“Smooth,” Louisa muttered under her breath. I elbowed her.

“What else is there to do in a mall this big?” Amelia said. She smiled. “We’re going to get bubble tea, of course.”

“Bubble tea is the most important product in this entire mall,” Louisa agreed.

“What’s bubble tea?” Alexander interrupted, still looking utterly lost.

Amelia, Louisa and I all stopped in our tracks and stared at one another, then at Alexander. I think we were all a little thunderstruck.

“What? You’ve never had bubble tea?” I demanded. “What’s the matter with you?”

“Isn’t that some kind of crime?” Louisa said.

“But…but…you’re Asian!” was all Amelia could manage.

Alexander rolled his eyes. “Oh, thanks for noticing.”

“This isn’t right,” Louisa said. She poked Alexander on the arm.

“Ow!”

“I’m glad you came along today, bud. Today is the day you will be reborn into a new man.”

“As opposed to the fake man I was all this time?”

“As opposed to the uncultured little boy you have been all this time,” Louisa said, rolling her eyes at me and raising her eyebrows in a ‘can  you believe this kid?’ kind of look.

“Geez, now I’m really curious. This better be some crazy good stuff,” Alexander warned. He was talking to all of us, but his eyes kept finding mine. Well, trying to find them. All day long I’d been getting this prickly feeling in my stomach and the back of my neck whenever I looked at him, so now I’d just settled for avoiding Alexander’s gaze altogether.

This would have been awkward, if I cared enough about what he thought of me to make it awkward.

By the time we’d reached the bubble tea stand and gotten our drinks, I’d mostly forgotten all about Alexander and the weird feeling. Mostly. This was because I found myself slightly distracted by how gross the people I called friends were.

“Gueth ‘ow maneh tahpiocah ballth awh ihn mah mouth rah nawh?” Louisa mumbled with her mouth full of tapioca balls. As she struggled to swallow, a thin trail of blackened saliva dribbled down her chin.

“Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you the girl who is set to receive her high school diploma in six months,” Amelia said sarcastically. “Too bad they don’t teach a class called Eating 101 in our school.”

“Oh, they do,” Louisa said once she’d swallowed. “They just call it chemistry instead.”

“Why can’t you guys be normal?” I moaned.

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