Read You First Online

Authors: Cari Simmons

You First

BOOK: You First
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DEDICATION

For my momma

—L.D.

CONTENTS
CHAPTER 1

“Can't you see it?” Gigi Prince asked her best friend, Finley. “Our name in LIGHTS!” Gigi held up her hands to show the giant theater-style marquee she pictured. It was Friday afternoon, and the girls were hanging out in Gigi's bedroom, waiting for the rain to pass. “What do you think?”

When Finn didn't answer right away, Gigi peered over the side of her loft bed. Finn was lying in the middle of a fluffy, grass-green carpet, doing crunches. These days, it was like she never
stopped
doing crunches.

“Finley!” Gigi said. “Our names. Lights. What do you think?”

“I think,” she said between crunches, “that I need” (crunch) “a little more” (crunch) “information” (double crunch).

“Oh,” Gigi said. “Broadway, of course. Or, more specifically, the Bright Lights of Broadway.” As she said
this, Gigi raised her hand and swept it in front of her, as if reaching towards the lights in the distance.

As an aspiring actress (and the lead in last year's elementary-school production of
The Cat in the Hat
), Gigi felt showbiz was in her bones. What could be a better party theme? They still hadn't decided on one, and they needed to—quick!

There were only six weeks left until the girls' twelfth birthdays, which Gigi found quite distressing. After all, it took
time
to plan the perfect double b-day celebration. Shopping for decorations, dreaming up favors, and even selecting the exact right thing to wear . . . none of that happened overnight.

“Think about it,” Gigi continued, pulling her long auburn curls into an artfully messy knot on the top of her head. “We could get all glammed up, and play our favorite show tunes, and have one of those photo-booth stations with all kinds of crazy hats and props and stuff!”

Finn flopped backwards, putting her hands behind her head and wrinkling her nose. “I don't know, Gee,” she said. “What would we be doing? Besides taking pictures?”

“Doing?” Gigi echoed. “Well, there'd be food. And cake, of course. Ooh! And we could play Celebrity.”

“Celebrity?”

“It's this version of Charades, only everyone uses the names of celebrities,” Gigi explained. “Julia Roberts swears by it.”

Finley wasn't convinced. “What about that indoor rock-climbing gym?” she suggested. “That's cool and different, right?”

Now it was Gigi's turn to wrinkle her nose. “Different, yes. Cool? Depends on who you ask, I guess.”

“I'm asking you.”

“Then no.”

Finley sat up, tucking her legs crisscross applesauce. “I just think we need to
do
something, you know? Like last year's party—the scavenger hunt at the mall. That was awesome.”

She was right; it
was
pretty awesome. The two girls had recruited their mothers to help plan the event. The moms divided the girls and their guests into two teams, and they raced against each other across the mall, solving clues in the form of trivia questions about the birthday girls. At each stop, an employee of the store would hand off the next clue.

Gigi's team had won by a nose—or by a freckle, rather, since the final clue was this: “Finley has a freckle she named Fred. You'd go to this kiosk if you want to
buy something for the body part on which Fred resides.” (Answer: Piercing Pagoda). It was funny; Gigi hadn't so much as spoken a word about Fred since third grade, when the girls used to joke about the funny things the freckle would “whisper” in Finn's ear if she didn't feed him enough beef jerky.

Gigi reached behind her to grab Glamour Puss, which is what Finn had named the fluffy white kitty they'd made for her at Build-A-Bear. She hugged her favorite stuffed friend to her chest, trying to think of a party theme that represented both her and Finn equally. The task was harder than it sounded. Even though the two girls had been best friends since birth (earlier, actually, since their moms became BFFs when they met through a group for pregnant ladies), the truth was that things were changing. Things had
been
changing ever since they started sixth grade. At first, it was little stuff, like what Finn said when Gigi suggested they celebrate the first day of middle school with a mani-pedi (“Dude, do I look like I care about polishing my toenails?”).

That was another thing—how “dude” had become Finley's favorite way of addressing people. (Gigi's response: “Dude? Do I look like I work on a ranch?”)

Lately, though, Gigi felt as if the thin divide between them was beginning to widen. For example, she couldn't
imagine ever wanting to spend a rainy Friday afternoon perfecting power squats. And as for Finley . . . well, she seemed completely uninterested in planning this party, when it was the
only
thing on Gigi's mind.

Gigi placed Glamour Puss gently against her pillow, then climbed down from the loft bed. She jumped two rungs from the bottom and landed with a thud. “Come on, Eff,” she coaxed. “Can't you at least pretend to care?”

Finley paused, midcrunch, and frowned. “I
do
care, Gee.”

“Really? Because you seem way more into what
you're
doing than what we're supposed to be doing together.”

Finn sprang up to her feet and said, “You're right. I'm sorry. I'm just really excited about next week.”

And this, perhaps, had been the biggest change of all. Because “next week” was the thing that Gigi was the
least
excited about. Next week was when the girls would be starting practice for the Sterling Middle School soccer team.

It wasn't that Gigi hated soccer. In fact, when they had first started playing, the summer after third grade, it had been
her
idea. She and Finley were obsessed with Harry Potter at the time. Of course, it wasn't possible for Muggles like themselves to join an actual Quidditch
team, so at her dad's suggestion, she landed on the next best thing: an intramural soccer league.

Only soccer wasn't nearly as fun as she'd imagined Quidditch to be. There was all the
running
, for one thing. For another, it was too hot to wear her Gryffindor scarf during games. Before long, Gigi just grew bored.

Finley, on the other hand, loved soccer. Like,
really
loved it. She was fast on her feet and almost seemed to glide as she crossed the field. No one could match her in terms of passing—she was the best, plain and simple. Sometimes Gigi had more fun watching Finn play than actually playing herself.

Finn slipped a hair elastic off her wrist and pulled her shoulder-length blond hair into a low ponytail. “Okay,” she said, narrowing her eyes. “Party planning. Let's do this.”

Gigi couldn't help but laugh. Of course Finn would approach their task with the same intensity as a big soccer match. Of course she would.

“What we need,” Finn continued, “is a strategy.”

Gigi shook her head. “What we need is the Wall.”

The two of them turned to face the wall opposite Gigi's loft bed. It was fourteen feet of history between them. Every last inch had been covered with posters, pictures, stickers, pages ripped from magazines—if
you could stick it somewhere, the Wall was where it went.

Finley had actually started the tradition, with a picture of the two of them taken on the first day of preschool. They were dressed in matching blue jumpers and red-sequined flats, and they grinned at the camera, arms linked and heads touching. She'd pasted it smack in the center of the Wall, which at the time was covered with Disney princess wallpaper. Finn declared, “Princess Aurora, you are hereby banished from the Kingdom of Bedroom. Long live Eff and Gee!”

It was a ritual they continued to this day, “banishing” the things they'd outgrown, like the sparkly Polly Pocket decal and a poster of a certain boy band of brothers. Whatever replaced the “banished” item was proclaimed to be superior—the best, coolest, most Eff and Gee thing
ever
.

Sometimes the ceremonies were solemn, like when they'd come down with a serious case of Bieber fever. Other times, they were beyond silly, like when they took turns replacing the heads of My Little Ponies with those of their favorite celebrities. Like centaurs, but with famous people. (Together Eff and Gee had declared, “Long live the cen-stars!”)

There was the photo of last year's
The Cat in the Hat
—with Gigi in costume and makeup as the titular feline, and Finn decked out as Thing 1—pasted among souvenirs from every other play and talent show Gigi and Finn had ever been in.

Another section of the Wall was devoted entirely to Birthday Parties Past; each year, the girls cut the number of their age out of theme-appropriate scrapbook paper and pasted a picture of themselves from the party on top of it.

There was last year's mall scavenger hunt, of course. For their tenth birthday blowout, they'd thrown a retro roller skating party at the Christiana Skating Center. For nine, they both dressed up as Hermione Granger for their Harry Potter party, and two years before that was the karaoke slumber party they had in Finley's basement. They'd invited so many girls, you couldn't so much as walk to the bathroom without stepping on someone's sleeping bag.

Gigi's eyes rested on her favorite photo of the bunch—the superglam portrait of her and Finn from their sixth birthday party, which had been held at a Sweet & Sassy salon in neighboring Pennsylvania. Because of the distance, their parents had rented them an honest-to-goodness pink limo, and all of their best girlfriends piled in. The only grown-ups allowed were
Gigi's and Finley's moms. Technically, Finley's little brother, Logan, had been on board too, as he'd hitched a ride in Finn's mother's swollen belly.

“Remember how much fun that was?” Gigi asked, running her finger along the photo's glittery pink frame.

“Aww,” Finn cooed. “Look how cute we are in those matching sequined tutus!”

“Whatever we decide for this party,” Gigi said, “I feel strongly that it should include costumes.”

Finn sighed. “Not everyone likes to play dress-up, Gee.”

“But
we
do,” Gigi responded. “And it's
our
birthday. So. If our friends want to bask in our fabulousness, they're going to have to dress appropriately.”

Finley nodded like she agreed but then started to nibble on an invisible hangnail on her thumb. This, Gigi knew, was something her best friend did when she was conflicted. A nervous habit, born out of the fact that Finn hated to argue about anything.

Now it was Gigi's turn to sigh. Why wouldn't Finley just talk to her? How hard was it to tell your best friend what you were really thinking?

Then, as if she had read Gigi's mind, Finley said, “It's just that . . . well, costumes are more
your
thing than mine. So couldn't we, um, make them optional?”

“Of course,” Gigi said. “As long as they stay on the menu. Deal?”

Finley grinned. “Deal.”

The girls continued to bat ideas back and forth. Or rather, Gigi batted ideas to Finn, who proceeded to shoot them down.

      
GEE:
What about a Southern tea party? We could have finger sandwiches and—ooh!—I can ask my mom-mom to make her famous seven-layer coconut cake!

      
EFF:
Tea party? I thought we were turning twelve, not a hundred and twelve.

      
GEE:
(Thinking.)

      
EFF:
(Staring at same invisible hangnail.)

      
GEE:
I know! We can go full-on Peter Pan, complete with pirate treasure hunt.

      
EFF:
(Shoots Gee a look.)

      
GEE:
What? You wanted something younger!

      
EFF:
Maybe not that young.

      
GEE:
Okayyy. How about a supercool Las Vegas theme? We could play poker—with M&Ms, of course.

      
EFF:
Of course.

      
GEE:
It could be really swanky. Ooh! We can
make the invitations out of playing cards!

      
EFF:
Huh.

      
GEE:
What?

      
EFF:
Southern tea?
Steel Magnolias.
Peter Pan?
Hook.
Vegas?
Ocean's Eleven.
Do you have
any
birthday party ideas not inspired by a Julia Roberts movie?

      
GEE: What's wrong with Julia Roberts?

      
EFF: Nothing. I'm just saying, our party doesn't have to have some kind of tie to your redheaded spirit twin.

      
[END BRAINSTORM SESSION]

Gigi flopped back on the carpet, covering her face with her arms. “This is hopeless!” she cried. “We're getting nowhere.”

“True,” Finn agreed. “You know what we need? A break.”

“A break from what?”

“We're thinking way too hard about this. I say we go downstairs, make a couple of smoothies, and watch a movie. I'll even let you pick which one.”

“Even if it's
Runaway
—”

“Bride,”
Finn finished for her. “Yes. I had a feeling you'd go for that one.”

And just that like that, Gigi felt the party-planning tension melt clean away.

As the closing credits rolled, Finn put her sneakers back on and tightened the laces.

“Are you leaving?” Gigi asked.

“It'll be getting dark soon,” Finley said. “I need to finish my run.”

“But what about the party?”

“Tomorrow,” Finn said. “After cooking class. I promise we'll figure it out then. 'Kay?”

BOOK: You First
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