My Best-Friend-for-Life-No-Matter-What Jules Bailey was talking with Popular Girl Venus Abbe. Venus Flytrap (as I like to call her) had just moved here from Paris. Someone had spread the rumor that she was “lonely and afraid in this new country.” But, Venus had actually lived most of her life in the States, and her family had only moved to Paris two years ago. So, she wasn’t exactly “lonely and afraid.”
But still, what was Jules doing hanging out with her?
We always spent this time together.
And then Venus and Jules gave each other the secret handshake that I had invented.
That made me burning mad.
Only ME and JULES knew that handshake.
Why did Jules teach her that?
I came up to them.
“Aww, look who it is. Tiny Tori,” Venus jeered.
I shrugged it off. “Jules, what are you doing?” I demanded.
Jules turned white. She hadn’t seen me standing alone down the hall, wondering WHY ON EARTH SHE WAS SHOWING VENUS FLYTRAP OUR SECRET HANDSHAKE.
“C’mon, Jules,” Venus said.
Then she grabbed Jules’s hand and towed her away.
I sighed. What was going on?
I’d find out later that day.
* * *
Jules went over to Venus’s house — correction, mansion — that day to spend the night. Jules had gotten out her cell phone and was “dialing the number on the screen.”
“Hello? I’d like to enter the Wars. I’m Jules Bailey. And could you enter Tori Lee as the other team? Thank you.” Jules hung up.
“Are we in?” Venus asked eagerly.
* * *
There was a knock on my door. I opened it — nothing. I was about to close the door when I saw a piece of paper taped to the handle.
Jules and Venus challenge YOU to The BFF Wars. Have your team ready in 2 days. You’re already signed up.
❤ ~ Team Jules
The next day at school, I was determined to figure out what that BFF Wars note was all about. Jules and Venus Flytrap were hanging out again. Perfect, I thought. Two birds with one stone.
“Hey, Tiny Tori,” Venus greeted.
I pulled the note out of my three-ring binder and waved it under their noses. “Tell me about this?”
“Oh, this?” Venus leaned over to study the paper, as if she hadn’t written it herself. “It’s what it looks like. Jules and I challenge you to The BFF Wars. And you’d better find a new best friend to enter it with, because Jules is mine.”
“Jules?” I said softly.
She just looked down and wouldn’t meet my eyes.
Venus marched off, head held high. Jules followed her like a loyal dog.
“Have your new bestie by tomorrow morning!”
I sighed. What choice did I have? I was already signed up. I had to have someone to enter it with. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a girl sitting on a bench, happily doing homework.
And yes, I did say happily.
Charlotte Kim was the only person in the school — maybe even the world — that you could put the two words happily and homework together, and have it still make sense.
I walked over. Charlotte was as good as anyone, and I knew that she would rock the academics challenge in The BFF Wars.
“Um . . . hi.”
Charlotte looked up from the book report she was writing. She smiled warmly. “Hello.”
I sat down. “So, I, uh, wanted to ask you a question.”
I took the note from my three-ring binder and showed it to her. I don’t really know why I did it — it was just nice to tell someone.
“Why are you telling me this?” she asked after I showed the note to her and explained my situation.
I shrugged. “Well, you seem nice.”
Clearing my throat, I added, “And I need someone to enter it with.”
“You mean . . .” She pointed to herself. “Me?”
I smiled as I came to my sudden decision. “Would you, Charlotte, like to be my best friend?”
She nodded rapidly, head bobbing up and down. “No one’s ever wanted to be my best friend before,” she admitted quietly. “They think I’m just a goody two-shoes.”
I smiled even brighter. “So, do you want to enter The BFF Wars with me?”
Charlotte spent the night at my house that day. We called it a “team-building exercise,” but it was really more of a “laugh until you ACTUALLY CAN’T BREATHE” exercise.
There was one that really caught my eye, though. And it was from Venus.
R U ready? have u got a team? you’d better, cuz we’ll be there to pick u up in 20 mins.
And then, in teeny tiny writing on the bottom of the page, was “sent 14 minutes ago.”
“Oh my goodness! We only have six minutes to get ready!” I exclaimed.
I shook Charlotte to wake her up. “Get up! Get UP!” When she opened her eyes, I shouted, “Six minutes and we’re out the door!”
We tugged our shoes on and ran to the kitchen.
We shoveled down our breakfast in record time.
Then we brushed our hair.
Venus’s limo pulled up just as Charlotte and I dashed out the front door. We piled into the back, and I sat as far away from Jules as I could.
We got dropped off at the filming location of The BFF Wars. We found our way to the hosts from our knowledge of the show. They were in a little building that looked like a ski lodge on the inside, and the three young woman that ran the show were grouped around a fire place.
Two of them, Ashley and Sianne, would do anything for fashion. That’s why they were wearing sleeveless dresses in November.
The other, Teresa, was much more practical. She was my favorite.
Venus ran over to Ashley and shook her hand. “Can I have your autograph?” She tried to sound calm and casual, but you could tell that she was almost hysteric.
“Later, sweetie,” Ashley replied.
Teresa came over to us and said, “Follow me.”
We followed her down a hallway and to a small room.
It had two bunk-beds in it — just enough room for all of the contestants.
“Get some sleep,” Teresa advised as we picked beds.
I didn’t need to be told twice — in fact, I didn’t even need to be told once. I was asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow. We were all tired from the trip (Venus’s limo, two planes, and another limo took us across the country), so all the girls soon went to sleep.
Tomorrow the Wars would begin.
I was the first one up the next morning. I’d been having a nightmare about Venus pounding me into dust during The BFF Wars. But, of course, that wasn’t what The BFF Wars was about. So that hopefully wouldn’t happen.
I rolled out of bed and woke up Charlotte.
Then I shook Venus and Jules’s bunk-bed to get them up.
After drowsily tugging on our shoes, we trudged outside to the filming location.
The minute Ashley saw us, she exclaimed, “Let the Wars BEGIN!”
The first part of the Wars was hair styling. Jules and I sat down on the bench, and Charlotte and Venus took out our current hairstyles and brushed out the tangles.
Behind us was a table with lots of colorful hair accessories spread out on it.
“GO!” Sianne, Teresa, and Ashley cried, and the cameras started filming.
Charlotte started braiding two little braids on either side of my head.
But when she glanced over and saw what Venus was doing, she knew that what she was doing wasn’t going to be enough. Although the hairstyle wasn’t complicated, it was impressive, which was what the judges were looking for.
Charlotte snapped a pink hair-extension into my hair and started braiding.
By the time Charlotte was done, Jules was already working on Venus’s hair. I jumped up and got to work. Or, tried to, really. I didn’t do much to my hair other than ponytails, braids, and the occasional bun, so I really had no idea what-so-ever what to do to Charlotte’s hair.
Jules was an expert at the art of hair-styling. With as much hair as she had, she had to know some styles. I wished again that she was still my best friend.
I gritted my teeth. I couldn’t copy Jules — it was against the rules. So what was I going to do?
Jules was snapping some colorful hair-ties into Venus’s short black hair.
And then it came to me: color! I grabbed a blue extension and started weaving it through Charlotte’s hair.
Just my luck, we were out of time. I didn’t get to finish Charlotte’s hairstyle. We all lined up and the judges inspected our hair, front and back.
I knew what their decision would be even before they said it.
“And the winner is . . . Team Jules!” Sianne announced.
Jules and Venus cheered.
Then we all headed back to our room.
“Hi everyone!” Sianne said into the camera with a gigantic smile. “I’m Sianne, as you know, and today on The BFF Wars, we are doing the Fashion Challenge! Because, I mean, your BFF has gotta have a totes amaze fashion sense or she’s just not cool, right?”
Behind Sianne, Teresa, the only non fashion-freak in the trio of young women running The BFF Wars, stuck out her tongue and shook her head. She didn’t like the Fashion Challenge.
Ashley came up beside Sianne and said, “You’ll remember our contestants for this week, Venus Abbe, Jules Bailey, Tori Lee and Charlotte Kim!”
The camera swiveled over to us.
Then Ashley snapped her fingers and the lights went out. The challenge was about to begin!
A spotlight found its way over to Venus as she stepped out onto the runway. She was wearing black reptile-skin boots, an animal-print mini skirt, a sleeveless white crop-top, and a chunky gold necklace.
The judges were crazy over her outfit.
I personally thought it looked like a cross between Cleopatra and Tarzan Lady.
As soon as Venus went backstage and the applause of the live audience died down, Jules stepped out.
The judges loved the fact that her knee-high boots were the same color as her curls.
Jules looked amazing in her deep purple top.
Then it was my turn. As I went backstage to find something to wear, I thought that there was no way that Charlotte and I could possibly beat Team Jules. I was useless in fashion — and I didn’t care about it anyway.
The ground was littered with clothes and accessories from Venus’s and Jules’s turns.
I finally picked a tight-fitting, one-shouldered dress that reached my ankles. I paired it with tall tan boots and put my hair up in a bun.
As I made my way to the runway, I slipped a diamond bracelet onto my wrist.
I also nestled a pretty silver clip in my hair.
I stepped out on to the runway with a big fat fake smile on my face. I was super uncomfortable in the dress.
I reached the end of the runway and twirled. I smiled into the camera.
“No!” Teresa whispered to me. “Don’t smile, Tori!“
The smile instantly left my face. I tried plastering on a cool-cat, totally in control look instead, but I know I failed miserably. I was really nervous.
I stood perfectly still, grimacing because the spotlight was glaring right in my face. I waited while Ashley, Teresa and Sianne discussed my outfit.
“She was smiling at the beginning,” Ashley observed.
“Yeah, Team Jules knew better,” Sianne put in. “Plus, their outfits were better.”
“She isn’t obsessed with fashion like the other two, Ashley,” Teresa said in my defense. “And what about the good things in her ensemble, Sianne? I know you like one-shouldered dresses. You’re wearing one right now!”
“OK, yes. I like the dress. And the glitzy bracelet,” Sianne agreed reluctantly.
“The big hair is alright, I guess,” Ashley said. “But there’s not much color. It’s a little two grown up-y for a twelve year old.”
“Yes, you’re right, Ashley. But she did a pretty good job, too. Let’s say . . . well, how ’bout if her partner, Charlotte, does well, then we have a voting from the audience?”
Ashley and Sianne nodded.
I bit my lip. Teresa was really pushing for me.
Then I went backstage.
As I watched the runway, waiting for Charlotte to come out, I hoped really, really hard that her outfit would be terrific. Then the audience would get to vote for which team they wanted to win, and Team Tori might have a shot at winning the second challenge of The BFF Wars.
A moment later, Charlotte stuck her foot out onto the runway. She wore short, fringed hot-pink boots. I imagined that her outfit would be a bright, bold outfit that the judges would love.
But my spirits sank when I saw the rest of her outfit. She herself looked great in the dress — but it was not “fashionable” to Ashley and Sianne, and it didn’t match the boots at all.
At this my open palm collided with my forehead.
As soon as Charlotte went backstage, the judges announced Team Jules the winner — again. Jules and Venus grinned and slapped each other high-fives.
Part 5 1/2
I found the horse that The BFF Wars used for the Horseback Riding Challenge, Smoke, outside in a spacious pasture.
I cried silently into his silky mane.
I love horses, and I think they love me, too. They calm me down, anyway.
I heard footsteps behind me. I spun around and swiped my hand across my face to dry the tears.
Standing in front of me was Charlotte. She was still wearing the dress that had cost us our victory, but she had changed her shoes.
She stroked Smoke’s nose.
“Tori,” she began, “I’m sorry that we lost again today. Neither of us are very good at fashion. But I think we can still win this thing.”
I turned away from her. “Just leave me alone, Charlotte,” I said through my teeth. “We’re not a very good team. And we’re not very good friends, either!”
Charlotte ran away, tears glistening in her blue eyes.
Later, as I was starting to feel bad about what I had said to sensitive Charlotte, Smoke and I had another visitor. Teresa stood and watched silently as I rubbed the horse’s neck under his mane.
Then Teresa whistled, Smoke’s ears pricked forward, and he trotted over to her. He put his head on Teresa’s shoulder.
“Hey, big guy,” she said into the Smoke’s ear. “You miss me? I haven’t had much time to see you, I know. Do you miss the farm?” When Smoke nickered, she added, “Yeah, me too.”
I stared open-mouthed at Teresa. This celebrity, fashion icon, was . . . talking to a horse.
“Do you like horses, Tori?” Teresa asked as she planted a kiss on Smoke’s velvety nose.
“Um, uh, yeah,” I stuttered. “I love horses.” And then, because I couldn’t help it, I asked timidly, “Is Smoke . . . your horse?”
Teresa nodded. “I used to live out in the country. But I moved to the city to make The BFF Wars with Ashley and Sianne. I used to ride Smoke everyday.” She smiled at Smoke as she remember the trails they used to ride. “I ran into your friend,” she said quietly after a minute. “She looked pretty upset.”
I stared at my feet. “I was mean to her,” I said, and tried not to cry. But it was no use. I might have just lost my only friend.
So then I found my self pouring out the whole story to Teresa and a horse. “Jules was my best friend since Kindergarten,” I said with a little sob. “And then Venus showed up at our school from Paris. Jules is really nice, so she was friendly toward Venus Flytrap. And then Jules just stopped talking to me, and she spent all her time with Venus. I got a note from them saying that they had gotten us into The BFF Wars. I had to find someone to enter it with, and so Charlotte became my best friend. But I’ve only know her for four days! She’s really cool, but she’s not Jules.”
Teresa put her hands on my shoulders. “Tori, I’m really sorry about Jules. But right now, I think you owe your other friend an apology.”
I ran off to find Charlotte.
I found Charlotte in the ski lodge building. She was scribbling furiously on a math sheet.
I came up beside her. “Charlotte.”
She glanced up at me, and then went back to her work.
“Charlotte,” I said, louder.
She sighed and put the math down. It looked like she had been crying.
“Charlotte,” I said, “I’m sorry. We’re a great team, and we’re best friends, too. I really didn’t mean it. I was just in a foul mood.”
I sat beside her and told her what I had told Teresa, just leaving off the part at the end.
We got up, friends again, and headed to the kitchen to get some hot chocolate.
“Guess what tomorrow’s challenge is,” Charlotte said, smiling and swinging her arms.
“Academics!” she exclaimed, throwing her hands up in the air and laughing. I laughed with her.
The laughter turned from haha-what-a-great-joke laughter to evil laughter very quickly.
Charlotte pulled me into a two person football huddle.
“OK, Lee,” she said in a gruff voice — or as gruff a voice as she could. “I’m the brains and the muscle in the operation, so you just, uh . . . be cute and cuddly.”
We broke up the huddle and I saluted Charlotte. “Yes sir, Coach.”
We walked confidently for the first time since we got to The BFF Wars out to where the Academics section was set up.
That’s when I spotted Ashley and Sianne. They looked HILARIOUS in their preppy ties, skirts, black shoes and white tops. Sianne’s outfit looked especially dated.
I doubled over in a helpless fit of laughter.
Through laughter-induced tears, I saw Jules lean back against the wall, giggling as well. Venus stared at her like she was crazy, and she demanded, “What are you laughing at?”
Charlotte looked from me to old-fashioned private school girls Sianne and Ashley. She started cracking up too.
“That’s enough, girls,” Teresa said, making a “settle down” motion with her hands. But I could see she was suppressing a smile.
When Teresa, Ashley and Sianne stood across from us, the latter two glaring at Charlotte, Jules, and I, I realized that the cameras had gotten it all — Charlotte’s football huddle, me making fun of Ashley and Sianne’s ensembles, all of it. I didn’t feel bad about that last one, though, because they really looked funny.
Then Ashley started explaining the rules. She tapped the see-through glass dividing a table. “This is a semi-sound proof piece of glass. It’ll make it much harder to overhear the other team.
“And this,” she continued, “is the button. The first team to press it after you get your question will answer first.”
Teresa picked up a piece of paper, reading aloud the question printed on it. “The first question is . . . how do you spell Arkansas?”
Venus and I hit our team’s button the instant Teresa finished talking. Beep! Beep!
Venus’s button glowed and started playing music, so she guessed, “A-r-k-a-n-s-a-w!”
Bah! her button exclaimed.
“Better luck next time.” Teresa gave Team Jules a sympathetic smile. She turned to Team Tori. “You guys get to guess now!”
“A-r-k-a-n-s-a-s,” Charlotte said slowly, thinking about each letter before she said it.
“That’s right! One point for Team Tori,” Teresa announced.
Numbers flickered onto screens above each team: 1 to 0.
Ashley set down a sheet of paper with the next question on it. “Who was the sixth president of the United States?”
Charlotte reached out and hit the orange button.
“You have five seconds to come up with an answer.”
“James Monroe . . .” Charlotte muttered to herself, “no, John Quincy Adams. Yeah, John Quincy Adams!”
“Correct!” Ashley exclaimed. The number on our screen changed to two.
Sianne, Teresa and Ashley continued to quiz us.
“2 X + 47 = 67. What is X?”
“What’s the top layer of skin called?”
“True or false: Humans have walked on the moon.”
“Uh . . .”
On and on we went, through all twenty of the questions.
We won sixteen to four! Charlotte and I did a little happy dance.
Grumbling, Venus pulled Jules away.
Jules glanced over her shoulder and waved, so slightly and quickly that if I had blinked, I would have missed it.
I turned back to Charlotte, wondering if Jules actually had waved at me, or it was just me wishing that she had.
Charlotte towed me over to a poster tacked up on a wall.
“It’s a list of the challenges,” she explained.
Charlotte moved her finger across the page, stopping at “Survival.”
“That’s our next challenge. Survival.”
“Survival?” I repeated. We can win that, I thought. Venus was such a city girl, and Jules had only been camping once.
Maybe all we had needed was one victory to spur us into action. We could do this.
I woke up by someone gently shaking the bed.
It took me a couple of minutes to fully wake up. I just wanted to go back to sleep — why get up early for another day of being beat by your former best friend and her new bestie?
But as soon as I remembered what today’s challenge was, I jumped out of bed like electricity coursed through my veins.
On the ground, I took a step toward Team Jules’ bunk-bed to wake them up, but stopped short.
Jules’s bed was empty.
I had assumed that it was Charlotte who had shaken the bed to get me up, but a glance over my shoulder proved me wrong: Charlotte was still snuggled under her covers.
So Jules had gotten me up?
I tugged some sneakers on and left the ski lodge to look for Jules.
A minute later, I saw her sitting on a brick ledge, a scarf and hat thrown on over her pajamas.
I tiptoed closer to her. A few yards away, I called out, “Jules?”
She jumped when I spoke.
As she slipped off the ledge and hurried away, I got a glimpse of something tied around her neck — a graphite colored cross, with a circle that read “BFF.”
I slumped onto the ridge and sighed. Closing my eyes, I thought about the necklace I had at home, hidden in my sock drawer. It looked exactly like the one Jules was wearing, only gold.
Beside me on the brick was a piece of paper.
I turned it over . . .
and saw that it was a picture of me and Jules.
I knew this picture very well. I had one just like it, stashed away with the necklace. It was from the day that Jules had given me my BFF necklace, and we had promised to be best friends forever.
I almost laughed and almost cried as I stared at the photograph.
We had promised to be best friends forever, hadn’t we? It didn’t really seem like Jules had remembered that pledge lately.
A tear trickled down my cheek, freezing from the cold breeze. The picture seemed so old, even though it had only been taken three years ago. I wondered if I would ever be able to put my arm around her like that again . . .
I gazed after Jules, another tear squeezing out from the corner of my eye. She had been wearing her BFF necklace, and looking at a picture of us?
Could she possibly want me back?
“Oh, Jules,” I murmured.
I stood up, shivering, and headed back to the ski lodge. But before I left, I picked up the photograph.
When I got back to our room, Venus and Charlotte were still sleeping, so I tucked the picture under Jules’s blanket.
An hour later, Team Tori and Team Jules were assembled on a road that was closed to traffic.
Sianne, Ashley, and Teresa hadn’t come outside because of the cold, but they were shouting rules and instructions at us from an open window.
We would spend the night outside, using just the supplies we had packed in our backpacks. There was an exception for the team that had the least points (meaning Charlotte and I): someone would drive out on a snowmobile and deliver us our sleeping bags.
The two teams set off in opposite directions, one cameraman trailing after each.
The only good thing so far about being the losing team was that me and Charlotte got to ride on a snowmobile for awhile. Charlotte sat behind me, and I started its engine.
As we crested a hill, I crossed my fingers — without letting go of the handle bars, or course — hoping that I wouldn’t get Charlotte or me hurt on the snowmobile, which I had never driven.
After about ten minutes, we saw a big red circle, and I slowed the snowmobile. The marker signaled that we had to get off the machine.
I let go of the handle bars, slipped off the leather seat, and followed Charlotte into a world of white.
“Here we are,” I announced. “This is where we’ll set up camp.”
We had picked a swath of snow in between two rows of tall thorns. We hoped that it would protect us from the wind, but I didn’t think anywhere would be safe from the frigid gusts tonight.
Charlotte slipped the backpack off her shoulders and handed it to me. I dug around in the bag and fished out a black tarp.
We spread the tarp out on the snowy ground, placing rocks on the corners to keep it down.
We shivered and talked until nightfall, when Teresa rode out on the snowmobile and gave us our bedding. We would have built a fire, but we couldn’t find any wood on the hike out.
Charlotte and I climbed into our sleeping bags, pulling the fabric all the way up to our chins. We didn’t even think about taking our shoes, hats, or jackets off. We drifted off to sleep with all our layers on.
The sun was just peeping over a mountain, sending gold, pink and orange beams of light over the snow-covered world, when we woke up.
We were fully charged, but it was raining, so we rifled through the backpack and pulled out our ponchos. Rainbows sparkled in the sky, dancing a duet with the sunrise.
I didn’t bother joking about finding a pot of gold, because I knew the treasure was right beside me.
“This is great camping weather,” Charlotte said sarcastically.
“Yeah,” I replied with a smile as a raindrop hit my nose.
We packed up camp, and ran all the way back to the road where we had set off the day before.
When we arrived at the ski lodge, Teresa, Ashley, and Sianne were sitting on a zebra striped couch, wrapped up in a pink patchwork blanket. They were staring at a screen, so I guessed they were watching a movie. But then I noticed that the two girls moving on the screen were me and Charlotte! They were watching the film the cameraman had taken of us the day before.
Charlotte and I shed our wet ponchos and jackets, hats, scarves and mittens, and slid under the warm blanket next to Teresa.
Watching myself drive the snowmobile on the screen, I thought just how AWESOME I looked. Nobody would guess that the only thing I had every driven was on Mario Cart.
Thirty minutes later, Jules and Venus tramped into the ski lodge. I’m not sure, but I think I saw an icicle hanging from Venus’s nose!
We had finished viewing Team Jules’s attempt at surviving outside for one night, and Teresa leaned over and whispered in my ear, “You won!”
When I told Charlotte, she leaped into the air, celebrating.
I jumped up after her, flexing my muscles.
As I wrapped my arms around Charlotte, I decided that we really could win this after all.
We can do this . . . We can do this . . .
The morning after the Survival challenge started with dancing.
Rhythmical thumps and shallow breaths sounded in time to classical music.
I sat up on my elbows and saw Jules doing ballet in the early morning light. She moved in perfect time to the music and the blanket draped across her shoulders shimmied as she twirled.
I crawled out of bed, my blanket wrapped around me tightly, and perched on the edge of Jules’s bunk-bed, watching in awe as she danced. It was almost like old times — me staring in amazement as she spun and leaped across the floor. The only thing different was that before Venus came along, Jules would try to get me to dance with her.
As Jules pirouetted in front of me, her “cape,” the rainbow-striped blanket, fell off her shoulders.
I picked it up off the floor and handed it to her when she came out of her spin. We smiled at each other.
I worked up enough courage to ask her about what had happened two days ago.
“Jules?” I began.
She looked at me, still smiling. “Yeah, Tori?”
“Well, two days ago, I saw you sitting outside. You were looking at a picture of us. It was from that day in the park when you gave me my best friend necklace.” I tried to keep emotion out of my voice, but soon gave up. I finally asked her what had been on my mind since the day this mess had started — the day Jules showed Venus our secret handshake. It had all gone down hill from that day. “Why?” Tears started to trickle down my cheeks. “As soon as Venus came to our school, it was like you had forgotten about me. You acted like you were her best friend; you wouldn’t talk to me. One day we were Best-Friends-for-Life-No-Matter-What, and then the next, you pretended that I didn’t exist! And I don’t know why!”
I thought I saw a tear form in the corner of Jules’s eye, but it could have just been the rising sun. Her lip trembled. It was like she had just realized how horrible and unfair she had been to me. “Tori, I –“
“Would someone please turn that hideous classical music off!” Venus whined from above us, interrupting Jules.
Jules turned away from me and switched off her radio. Our almost one-sided conversation was over.
Swiping at my eyes with my blanket, I walked over to Team Tori’s bunk-beds to wake Charlotte.
“Charlotte, get up.”
“Ermgh,” she protested.
I shook her. “Come on, Charlotte! Get up! Today’s the Art challenge.”
When both teams were ready, we went out to where the Art challenge was being held.
Ashley and Sianne seemed to be dressed up: Ashley as a dancer and Sianne, with her beret, an artist. If Teresa was pretending along with them, my guess was that she was a writer — she looked pretty normal.
“You have sixty minutes to create a piece of art — writing, drawing, painting, blah, blah, blah, along those line.” Sianne glared at me as she spoke; she hadn’t forgotten that I’d made fun of her outfit during the Academics challenge. “I’ll start giving you time warnings at thirty minutes. Go!”
We all rushed off to different stations in the room. Charlotte went to a writing nook, Venus and I to a table of art supplies. Jules started stretching in a large, empty space of floor that served as a stage.
I set a canvas up on an easel, wondering what to draw. I liked horse and art, so why not draw a horse? I decided to draw an Arabian.
I picked up a pencil and began to sketch.
~ 30 minutes later ~
Sianne had just announced that we had half an hour left. I’d finally finished drawing the horse; now all I needed was to paint it, and I’d be done! I got some brown paint on a brush and started to add to color to my drawing.
I glanced over to see what Venus was doing. She was working in a drawing pad and had colored pencils, crayons, and markers spread out around her.
“Fifteen minutes!” Sianne called. I turned away from Venus and got back to work.
Soon we were out of time. Luckily, I had finished my horse — I thought it was a good drawing. Hopefully Teresa, Ashley and Sianne would think the same.
“Please bring your art up to the judges, us!” Sianne said.
Jules went first. She was doing a ballet routine she had made up. (The BFF Wars considered dance an art, not a sport, or else Jules would have danced during the Sports challenges.)
The song Counting Stars swelled around the room, and Jules began to dance.
Jules finished her routine and was met by a thunderous applause. Her dancing, as always, had been spectacular.
Charlotte presented her work to the judges next.
“This is the start of a story,” she said, pushing a couple of papers toward them.
Teresa, Ashley and Sianne crowded together and started to read.
I squeezed Charlotte’s arm as we waited. What would the judges think of her writing?
“This is amazing!” Teresa exclaimed.
“Totally!” Sianne and Ashley agreed.
Charlotte smiled at me.
Venus showed the judges her art.
“This is what I’ve been working on,” she said.
The judges — Sianne and Ashley, at least — loved her drawing.
“Woah!” Ashley said. “This is fabulous!”
“I’d totally wear that!” Sianne gushed.
Venus beamed at their praise.
Finally it was my turn to show the judges what I had made. I suddenly didn’t feel like sharing my art with them — what if they didn’t like it?
But I had to present my drawing. It was the only way Team Tori could win!
I laid my drawing on the table in front of the judges.
“Wow, Tori, this is amazing!” Teresa praised. “Just, wow . . .” She trailed off.
Ashley and Sianne stared at the paper in silence.
I fidgeted nervously. They didn’t like it! How could they drool over an outfit with shoes that didn’t match the dress, but not like my drawing? I wanted to cry.
I grabbed my drawing and slunk back to Charlotte.
Two out three judges didn’t like my art. All of the judges liked Jules’s dance and Charlotte’s writing. Sianne and Ashley liked Venus’s sketch, but Teresa was the only one who liked my art. Team Jules was going to win again!
“The winner of the Art challenge is . . .” Ashley paused, making us wait. “. . . Team Jules!”
Team Jules: 3
Team Tori: 2
We stood outside on the day of the first Sports challenge. Teresa told us what we would be doing that day, although we knew already. All of us knew the challenges because we had watched The BFF Wars on TV before.
“We’ll start with a race,” Teresa was saying. “A girl from Team Tori will race against one from Team Jules. Then we’ll have a soccer game. Everybody got that?”
We all nodded.
I had a feeling that Charlotte and I could win today. Along with art and horses, sports was my real passion.
Teresa, Ashley and Sianne headed over to the track, followed by Jules and Venus.
I turned to Charlotte and put my hand on her arm. She had been super quite all morning, and her color had been off. “Hey, are you feeling OK? You don’t seem so hot, Champ.”
Charlotte nodded. “Yeah, I’m fine.”
“Just tell me if you feel dizzy or anything.”
When we caught up with the hosts of The BFF Wars and Team Jules, Teresa was talking about the race.
“Talk amongst yourselves and figure out who’s going to run,” she instructed.
I faced Charlotte and said, “I’d like to race; I’m pretty fast.” When my friend didn’t say anything, I added, “But if you’d like to race instead, I’m fine with that too.”
Charlotte began, “I –” She suddenly cut herself off by doubling over and coughing.
I put my arm around Charlotte, alarmed, and asked, “Are you OK? Charlotte?”
She just kept coughing.
I waved in Teresa direction frantically. “Teresa! Come here, quick!”
Teresa hurried over when I called her and put her arm around Charlotte, too.
“Charlotte, honey, are you OK?” she asked.
Charlotte took a deep breath, trying to stop coughing.
Teresa helped Charlotte over to a patch of grass beside the soccer field.
I rushed over to Charlotte. “Is she going to be OK?” I asked Teresa. “Will she be able to compete in Sports 1?”
Charlotte smiled at me weakly. “I’ll be fine, Tori, but I don’t think I’m up to sports today.” She looked at Teresa. “Is it possible for Tori to compete in this event without me?” Charlotte coughed again a couple times.
“In this case, I think Tori can compete alone,” Teresa replied.
As Teresa and I made our way back to the track, we saw Venus and Jules arguing over who was going to race.
“I know Tori,” Jules was saying. “I know how she runs; I might be able to beat her!”
“No!” Venus waved her hands in the air. “I’m going to race. Just tell me how to beat Tori.”
Jules continued with a sigh. ” . . . Start out strong . . . Tori . . . slow . . . do not . . . use all your energy at the end.”
Venus was tapping her foot on the asphalt so loudly she only heard about half of what Jules was saying. “OK, so I’ll start out strong and not use all my energy at that end. Thank you so much.” She said the last sentence with fake sweetness. Venus darted out to the track, taking the first lane.
I joined Venus on the track and took lane two. You can do this, I told myself. Just start out slow and save your energy for a sprint at the end.
Sianne and Charlotte were sitting near the soccer field, so only Jules, Ashley and Teresa flanked the track. Ashley and Sianne stood in silence and waited for Teresa to signal us to run.
Teresa raised her hand in the air, shouted “Go!” and brought it down quickly.
Venus pulled in front of me in the first two yards. I wondered why she would sprint at the being of the race. I took a deep breath, focused on the track in front of me, and ran, making sure not to go all out yet.
I passed Venus at the first curve in the track. I could hear her short breaths behind me as she struggled to keep running.
One, two, one two, I thought. It helped me to think in time with my footsteps when I ran.
Soon the finish line came into view. Jules cheered for her teammate, “Ve-nus! Ve-nus!” and from the soccer field came Charlotte’s voice, “Tor-i! Tor-i!”
I rounded the last corner and started to sprint.
I crossed the finish line with a satisfied sigh, five feet in front of my competition.
I raised my arms in the air, panting and sweaty, but victorious.
Teresa, as a host of The BFF Wars, wasn’t supposed to pick sides, but she couldn’t help giving me a hug.
“That was awesome, Tori!” she exclaimed.
I had won the race! I was halfway to winning Sports 1. If only I could win the soccer match by myself, the teams would be tied.
Part 9 1/2
Venus and I stayed on the track, catching our breath as Teresa talked about the soccer game.
Venus raised her hand to get Teresa’s attention and asked with fake politeness, “How is this game going to work? Tori’s best friend, poor Charlotte, is sick. So it would be two against one. How would that be fair to Tori?”
“We already thought of that,” Ashley replied. “You’ll take turns playing offense and defense.”
We followed Teresa and Ashley to the field Charlotte and Sianne were resting by.
“Tori will start out in the goal,” Teresa told us. She turned to me and inquired, “Is that OK with you, Tori?”
I nodded. “Yeah, that’s fine.”
Jules and Venus and I went out onto the soccer field. I took my place in the goal and Venus and Jules stood four yards in front from me with the ball.
A shrill whistle start the game, and Jules began dribbling the ball up to the goal.
As she was getting in position to shoot, Venus darted in front of Jules and stole the ball from her. A look of confusion flashed across Jules’s face, and she said, “We’re on the same team, Venus!”
Ignoring her, Venus took the ball to the right side of the field and got ready to shoot.
She kicked the ball and it bounced off of the goalie’s best friend, a pole. Venus missed the goal and didn’t get a point.
The ball was returned to the middle of the field and the next round began. Venus took the ball to the left side of the field and Jules ran to the right. I stood on my toes, wondering if Venus would pass to Jules.
Venus passed to Jules and she dribbled up to the goal. I pretended to dart forward and Jules kicked the ball upstairs.
The soccer ball soared toward the right corner of the net. I leaped into the air, trying to block it.
I batted at the ball with my hand and stopped it from traveling into the goal. It rolled away from the net and crossed the line marking the dimensions of the field; it was out.
After five more minutes of Team Jules trying unsuccessfully to score on me, it was my turn to play offense. Jules moved into the goal and Venus took up defense.
When the whistle blew, I dribbled toward the goal.
Venus rushed forward, blocking my path, but I swerved left and continued to advance on the goal.
As I charged forward, Jules shrank back into the goal, behind the line. It was almost too easy.
I faked a left and then drove the ball right.
With a mighty kick, I sent the ball straight into the goal.
It rolled past Jules and she stood gaping, scolding herself for not stopping it.
Six minutes later, after I had scored two goals per minute, Teresa blew the whistle and the scrimmage ended.
“Tori is the winner of Sports 1!” she exclaimed.
I ran off the field and wrapped Charlotte in a hug. “We won!” I exclaimed. “Charlotte, I did it!”
The teams were tied now:
Team Tori: 3
Team Jules: 3
The morning of the Sports 2 challenge dawned as clear as the water in the pool we would start the event in. The water was crystal-clear and we could see all the way down to the teal tiles on the bottom of the pool.
“And this is the pool,” Ashley announced, stating the obvious.
As we followed Ashley and the others to the shallow end, Charlotte squeezed my hand for good luck.
Charlotte was still sick, but she was feeling well enough to cheer me on in Sports 2. She just didn’t feel good enough to actually compete.
“OK, girls,” Ashley said, looking at Jules and I, the swimmers for the first event. “Let’s get this party started!”
Jules and I stepped up to the edge of the pool. Because we were already wearing our swim suits under our clothes, all we had to do was take off our shirts and shorts, and then we were ready to swim.
We took our positions in front of our lanes as Ashley began to count down. “Three . . . Two . . . One . . . GO!” she yelled.
We jumped forward and dove into the pool.
My hands parted the water and I started slicing through it. I pictured Charlotte’s face when I won. She’d be so proud that Tori Lee, her best friend, had won the swimming challenge of Sports 2.
Keeping Charlotte in my mind, I swam alongside Jules, kicking my legs and pumping my arms.
One, two, one two. I used the same trick/habit for swimming that I did for running. One, two, one, two.
When we reached the far end of the pool, Jules was slightly ahead of me.
Go, Tori! I silently screamed at myself.
Jules lost some ground when we turned around, headed back to the shallow end. She swan in a circle as she got ready to do the backstroke, and I ducked under water and pushed off the wall for a boost.
Nearing the finish, we were neck-and-neck.
I could hear Charlotte and Teresa shouting my name, cheering me on, “Go, Tori! Go!!”
Everything seemed to move in slow-motion as Jules and I glided into the shallow end.
With one last burst of energy, I surged ahead of Jules and hit my head on the wall.
I grabbed onto the wall and looked over into the other lane in time to see Jules gracefully bump the wall with her hand.
I had won!
Jules and I got out of the pool and our teammates rushed forward and handed us towels.
“You did it, Tori!” Charlotte exclaimed. She looked exactly like I had pictured her in my mind: blue eyes sparkling, a grin stretched across her face ear-to-ear.
“How close were we?” I asked Charlotte, tugging my shirt over my head.
“So close!” she replied. “Like, inches apart! You beat her right at the end by about seven inches.”
We joined the group surrounding Ashley and waited to hear what the last event of Sports 2 was. Unlike Sports 1, the challenges in Sports 2 changed every week.
“Our last sport in Sports 2 is . . .” Ashley began, ” dodgeball!”
Part 10 1/2
“Welcome to the dodgeball arena.” Ashley spread her arms wide to take in the carpeted room for playing dodgeball.
Boxes, pillows, and foam tubes were scattered across to arena for cover.
Jules, Venus and I followed Ashley out into the middle of the arena.
“We’re playing ricochet dodgeball today, ladies. You’ll each start out with ten lives. If you hit some, you get another life, but if they hit you you lose one. If you catch a ball, the person who threw it at you loses a life, and you gain one.
“If you run out of lives, you’re out of the game. Head-shots don’t count. The person with the most lives at the end of twenty minutes is the winner. Probably the most important rule if that there are no teams. It’s every girl for herself. You got that, Venus, Jules? You are not on the same team.”
Ashley pointed to three screens displayed above the dodgeball arena. The read “Jules Bailey,” “Tori Lee” and “Venus Abbe.” Each had the number 10 under it.
“The screen with your name is where your points will be shown,” Ashley continued. “Remember: NO TEAMS. Good luck, girls.”
We ran to hiding spots around the room and waited for the game to start. Ashley tossed the dodgeball into the air, yelled “Go!” and ran to the sidelines, where Charlotte, Teresa and Sianne were cheering.
I dashed out from behind some gigantic pillows where I had been hiding and scooped up the ball.
Venus had been going for the ball, too, and was standing right beside me. I turned to her and threw the ball at her.
It hit her in the leg.
Our screens changed: Tori: 11. Venus: 9.
Venus grabbed the ball off the floor and glared at me.
I ran for cover, swung myself over the foam tubes, and landed beside Jules.
Venus ran toward us and threw the ball. It hit Jules in the arm, missing me by inches. Venus had gotten a point.
Jules scrambled for the ball rolling around behind us, but I wrapped my arms around it first.
I tapped the neon-yellow ball against Jules’s foot.
I scrambled away from Jules and crouched behind a box.
Com’n, Tori! I yelled at myself. You’re the undefeated dodgeball champion at school. Get some people out!
As Venus and Jules rushed by my hiding spot, I aimed the ball at them. It bounced off Jules and hit Venus’s leg.
“That’s two points for Tori!” I celebrated.
I left my hiding spot and took cover behind an overturned table, waiting for Jules or Venus to pick up the ball.
Fifteen minutes later, I threw the ball at Venus, who had only one life left. It hit her in the back and she fell to the floor. Venus was out! It was just me and Jules now.
I ran out and picked up the ball. Jules had just stepped out from behind the pillows I had hidden behind earlier, and was just where I wanted her.
I chucked the ball at her.
She raised her hands and caught the ball.
Jules launched the ball at me and it struck my shoulder.
I flung the ball at Jules, but she spread her legs wide and it zipped between them.
As I ran for cover, Jules threw the ball at my retreating form. It grazed my arm and ricocheted off the box beside me, hitting my leg.
I was beginning to think that I might not win the dodgeball challenge. I’d forgotten how good Jules was at dodgeball!
Jules closed her eyes, satisfied that she had hit me, undefeated dodgeball champion, so many times. I took that moment to swoop in on her and hit her with the ball.
The twenty minutes was up, and we were tied: 10 to 10.
Ashley came onto the court and took the ball from Jules.
“We were prepared for a tie breaker,” Ashley said.
Jules and I stood across from each other, the ball in between us.
“Sudden Death,” a recorded voice boomed over the loudspeaker. “The first person to be hit loses. Fans, feel free to join in the count down. Three . . . ” Everyone on the sidelines chanted with the voice. “Two . . . One . . . Sudden Death!“
Jules and I rushed for the ball. I scooped it up first and tagged Jules square in the chest.
“And Tori Lee from Team Tori is the winner of the dodgeball challenge!“
Charlotte ran into the arena and wrapped her arms around my neck.
We were beating Team Jules by one point. We just needed to win one more challenge — either the Cooking challenge or the Horseback Riding one — and we would win the whole BFF Wars.
“Welcome to the Cooking challenge!” Sianne exclaimed.
The teams had gathered in a room with two low tables and a high ceiling. With the roof being so high over our heads, I wondered if Sianne would make us create a fifty-layer cake. It wasn’t unheard of!
“We usually make our contestants bake us cakes, cookies, or pies, ” Sianne continued.
Are we going to have to make a casserole?! I thought in horror. Not only were casseroles gross, and I had no idea how to make them, I believed I was allergic to them.
“Don’t fear! We won’t make you bake casseroles.” Had Sianne read my mind?! “You will make . . . CUPCAKES!”
Everyone in the room started to clap. “Cup-cakes! Cup-cakes!”
“All the ingredients are in your tables,” Sianne finished. “You may begin!”
I leaned down and saw all the things Charlotte and I needed to make a cake stashed in the hollow table: bowls, spoons, measuring cups, milk, eggs, and cake mix.
I set the supplies on top of the table.
“Let’s get this show on the road,” I said to Charlotte. We began to make the cake.
We dumped the cake mix into a bowl, added three egg yolks, milk, and vegetable oil. Then we took turns mixing, and Charlotte poured the batter into cupcake pans and stuck them in the oven.
Soon the cupcakes were done, and we pulled them out of the pans. Charlotte and I brainstormed about how to decorate them.
“Let’s make them magenta!” Charlotte suggested.
“Pink?” I disapproved of the idea. “You know that red food dye doesn’t taste very good, right? What if we did light blue?”
“Well, OK. Say that the cupcakes are blue. What would we do then?”
“Um . . . add sprinkles!”
Charlotte mixed up some buttercream frosting and put two drops of blue food coloring in.
I looked over at Team Jules’s table to check out our competition.
Jules was piping a swirling pattern of salmon-pink ribbons on her cupcakes.
I nudged Charlotte. “Hey, Charlotte, we need to step it up.”
I showered some cupcakes with frost-colored sprinkles that looked like snow, and Charlotte dumped a bunch of light green grains of sugar on others.
We “borrowed” some pink icing from Jules and put little squiggly lines on our cupcakes.
Jules had used the same see-through sprinkles as I had, but it looked a lot better on her cupcakes. They looked like pale roses dusted with morning dew.
Once both teams were done, the judges came around to taste their treats.
Sianne, Ashley, and Teresa each grabbed a cupcake and took a bite, chewing thoughtfully.
Then they crossed over to our table. “Tell us about your cupcakes,” Sianne prompted.
Charlotte cleared her throat. Pointing at a cupcake, she said, “Well, they’re chocolate with buttercream frosting. We thought they looked a little bit like French macarons.” She offered each of the judges a cupcake.
After eating a cupcake, the judges went to the front of the room and discussed the pros and cons of each team’s treat.
I munched on a cupcake nervously and waited for their decision.
Ashley broke out of the huddle and turned to face us.
“We all agreed that Team Tori’s cupcakes tasted a little better — we think that Team Jules might have under cooked theirs a bit.”
Teresa said, “While we thought both cupcakes were cute, Team Jules’s were fancier. So the winner of the cooking challenge is . . .”
“Team Jules!” Sianne exclaimed.
Jules hugged Venus and stated matter-of-factly, “Pink and sparkles never fail!”
Energy zipped through my veins as I realized that the teams were tied. The last challenge, Horseback Riding, would take place tomorrow, deciding who won the entire BFF Wars.
I woke up early on the day of the Horseback Riding challenge so I could spend some time with Smoke before the event. When I got to the arena, Teresa was already there with her horse.
Then I noticed Smoke’s tack: pink saddle, pink bridle and reins, pink saddle blanket. What had Ashley and Sianne done to him?!
I walked over to Teresa and asked playfully, “You didn’t do that to him, did you?”
Teresa grinned at me. “I’m not that mean, am I?”
She rubbed Smoke’s neck. “Are you ready for the Horseback Riding challenge?” she inquired.
“As ready as I’ll ever be,” I replied, offering Smoke my hand for inspection. “It’s not like if I don’t do a good job, Charlotte and I will lose The BFF Wars.”
Sianne, Venus, Ashley, Jules and Charlotte came out of the ski-lodge building and into the arena just then — the final challenge was about to start.
Teresa threw the reins over Smoke’s head and patted the saddle. “Saddle up, Tori. You’re going first.”
I mounted Smoke and took a deep breath. Winner takes all. Teresa put her hand on my leg and smiled up at me. “Don’t worry,” she said soothingly. “You go get ’em, Hot Shot!”
I rode Smoke at a trot to the start of the Horseback Riding course, sitting back in the saddle.
Smoke hopped over the first jump easily.
We zigzagged through the course, clearing each jump.
On the last jump, the tallest one, I leaned low on Smoke’s neck, becoming one with the horse.
I did great until that jump. We jumped early, and Smoke’s foot grazed the bar. I held my breath — would the jump be knocked down? It rattled around, but didn’t fall. Phew!
I circled back to the starting place on Smoke, and Charlotte started to rush out to me, and then thought better of it. She walked calmly toward me and the white horse, but I could see the excitement in her eyes.
Teresa followed Charlotte.
“That was perfect, Tori!” Teresa told me. “Other than that part at the end, it was perfect!”
“I’d like to see Team Jules top that!” Charlotte added. We waited for either Jules or Venus to come into the arena.
“I’d like to ride Smoke,” Jules said to Venus. “I–“
“Nope!” Venus cut Jules off. “I’m riding the horse. I don’t care if he’s just a dirty, smelly beast, but I bet you’d totally mess up if you went, and I have to win The BFF Wars. You can’t go!”
“Hey!” I yelled at Venus. “You can’t talk to Jules that way.” It didn’t matter that Jules didn’t want to be my best friend anymore (or did she? I wasn’t sure.); I had to stick up for her. It wasn’t right for Venus to treat her like that.
Venus and Jules both stared at me. Venus glared, hate in her dark brown eyes, and Jules smiled gratefully at me. It made me feel like a hero.
“Anyway,” Venus continued, “I’m riding.”
“Venus, I’ve–” Jules tried to plead.
Venus stalked out toward Smoke, head held high, turning her back to Jules.
“–taken riding lessons,” Jules finished with a sigh.
Venus mounted Smoke sloppily and perched on his back, tense. Her anxiety telegraphed down the reins to Smoke, and he trotted a few steps forward. She pulled back on the reins and Smoke jerked his head up. It was obvious that Venus had never ridden before.
She rode Smoke toward the first jump, slipping back and forth in the saddle. Venus tugged the reins back when Smoke tried to jump, so they ran right through the jump.
After Venus went through the course, knocking down every jump but one, Teresa ran out to her horse and stroked his mane, whispering sweet nothings into his ear.
Once Smoke was calmed down, Venus and I stood on either side of Teresa and her horse and waited for her to announced the winner of the challenge, though it was pretty obvious.
Teresa turned to me, a huge grin on her face. “I’m proud to say that Tori is the winner of the Horseback Riding challenge! She has a way with horses.”
I mounted Smoke and rode him into the winner’s circle, smiling crazily and waving at the cameras.
As Teresa entered the circle of daffodils, carrying two things, I slid out of Smoke’s saddle.
Teresa draped a wreath of hot-pink flowers around Smoke’s neck,
and a gold “1” medal around mine.
I waved at the cameras again.
“Ready to find out who won The BFF Wars?” she asked me.
My body started shaking, and my legs felt wobbly. Was I? I took a deep breath to calm my nerves.
Sianne, Teresa, and Ashley stood up on a stage together, three best friends forever.
Teresa started her speech. “During the eight days you’ve been here, you’ve showed your strengths and weaknesses to your teammate, through various challenges, from fashion to survival. Maybe you can start a fire and do first aid, but can’t put together a fashionable outfit.
“Today, you’ve made it through all the challenges. But sadly, there can be only one winner of The BFF Wars: the team that won the most challenges. Now, the winner of The BFF Wars is . . .”
Part 12 1/2
“. . . Team Tori!!”
Charlotte and I ran onto the stage, hopping up and down and screaming in excitement. We picked up The BFF Wars trophy and held it in the air between us.
The trophy was painted a metallic gold, and a circle balanced on top had a sparkly purple gem in it. The words “BFF Wars” glittered in the sun.
We put down the award and jumped around, hugging each other and squealing some more. Had we really won? Was this real?
I wrapped my arms around Smoke’s neck and pressed my cheek against his silky mane. Charlotte, Jules, Venus and I were leaving the filming location of The BFF Wars in just a few minutes, and I wanted to say good bye to Teresa’s horse before we left.
I kissed Smoke’s velvety nose. Then I turned away and went to join the others.
As Teresa was walking us to where one of Venus’s limos would pick us up, she turned to me.
She pulled a slip of paper from her boot and pushed it into my hand.
I unfolded it, and saw that it was Teresa’s email: email@example.com.
She hugged me and whispered, “Keep in touch, Tori.”
She waved at us as we drove away until she was just a tiny speck in the distant. Teresa was like the sister I never had.
Life didn’t exactly turn back to normal after The BFF Wars. I would get ambushed on the street by random citizens, asking for my autograph. It was like I was a celebrity.
And, of course, nothing was normal without Jules by my side.
I was walking through town one drizzling afternoon when I saw a familiar person at my favorite ice-cream shop. The curly blonde ponytail, the stunning sky-blue eyes: it was definitely Jules.
I got some mint ice-cream and sat down across from Jules.
“Hi, Jules,” I said after a minute.
Jules looked up from her pink dessert. “Hi.”
All of a sudden she burst into tears. I tentatively put my arm around her and she cried into my shoulder.
“I’m sorry, Tori!” she sobbed. “I wanted to spend time with you, but Venus wouldn’t let me. I didn’t want to call The BFF Wars, but Venus made me do it! I tried to talk to you, but she wouldn’t leave me alone. I want to be your friend again! Your best friend!”
I helped Jules up and looked her in the eye. “Jules, of course we’re best friends. Best friends forever, right?”
We hugged each other, tears pricking the corners of my own eyes.
I introduced Jules to Charlotte, and they quickly became close friends. We were a trio — the perfect number. That’s why cars have three seats in the back: so you can take your two best friends on adventures with you!
As for Venus? She crawled back to Paris. Hopefully we’d never see her again.
With Jules back in my life, things returned to normal pretty fast. People forgot that we had been on The BFF Wars, and we stopped getting mobbed.
Jules made me feel adventurous, and Charlotte made me feel hilarious — with both of them, I felt unstoppable, like I could do anything.
I loved my best friends. ♥