Chapter 1: Food Chain
Cady Heron felt stiff, scared, and alone. It was the first day of school after Spring Fling, and no one would let her forget.
Her head bowed, she felt the stares. Her feet shuffled through the hallway, hugging herself tightly as if to protect herself. Even after apologizing, and breaking the crown, and Regina shutting down any bus rumors, everyone watched her. They waited. She recalled Janis warning her about Regina and her predatory behavior. She was the new apex predator.
Coming back felt like the first day all over again; no one but Janis and Damian would speak to her. Sitting down in homeroom was relieving, having them to joke with. Karen, too, would pass Cady in the halls and shout a friendly greeting before continuing on her way. There was no sign of Gretchen or Regina, but she refused to let them get in her way of enjoying lunch again-
She suddenly realized that she'd never eaten lunch with Janis and Damian. Memories of being pulled in by the Plastics, of being drawn towards Regina's power over others, came flooding in. Cady wondered how Regina handled it, that feeling of invincibility. They both had realized that the effect was temporary, but Regina had lasted years.
"Caddy? You okay?" Janis was suddenly very close, with her fingers gently resting on Cady's cheek. Cady jumped; she had stopped walking. She and Janis now stood in front of the cafeteria doorway, with Damian inside to claim their table. It used to just be habit, but the three of them could see how many people started visiting other groups without fear. Cady watched a band geek travel towards the mathletes and give Kevin a high-five. She supposed her actions had affected the school in ways she hadn't expected. Now saving seats might actually be required, or else an extroverted member of the choir may come up and claim the table for the day.
"You did that," Janis grinned. They walked in together, and Cady took her first seat at the "Art Freaks" table. Not that the label seemed to matter, anymore.
"Welcome, Caddy Heron, to your new home." Damian extravagantly waved his arms in the air. So, they hadn't changed much this past year. Cady smiled to herself, and Damian took it as a response. "You know, I already tried pinning my piece of your tiara to my wall, but nothing went with it; I might just glue it and let my mom deal with it after I move out."
"You actually kept it?" Janis didn't seem very shocked by it, but she was not one to pass up an opportunity to make a joke. "Wow, I guess Caddy's speech just flew over your head. Nothing says 'the status quo is broken' like treasuring a broken piece of trash."
"Janis, honey, I'm gay, I'll treasure any trash that's as sparkly as that."
"You can't pull the gay card when I'm the second biggest homo in school!" Janis stole the chips out of Damian's lunch bag. In retaliation, he stole her sandwich, which she snatched back, only to have it fall to the floor. Janis shrugged and opened the stolen bag of chips.
"Girls," Cady said, feeling a need to give input. Janis eyed her with a mouth full of vinegar chips, and nodded.
"Girls," she agreed.
“Shut up, Damian.” Janis gave him a light push, initiating a small slap fight.
Cady's eyes traveled towards the middle of the room, where the Plastics once sat. Students she didn't recognize timidly began to take it over, their eyes searching for the three girls with rabid paranoia. No one was sure if this peace would last.
She looked over towards the mathletes, who were yelling as Kevin played a game on his little console. Cady couldn't tell if they were supporting or degrading him. Then, finally, she looked back toward her first friends. Janis and Damian were happily discussing a TV show they had tried introducing Cady to. She hadn't paid much attention at the time, but as she listened to them rant, she had the urge to try again, not so distracted by thoughts of Aaron, Regina, how many likes she had, or anything else.
Janis turned towards Cady, asking "What's your favorite movie, Caddy?"
"I haven't really watched that many."
"Okay, but we showed you a couple, didn't we?"
"No, sweetie, we were planning to. We had a whole list." Damian came to Cady's rescue, distracting Janis and allowing Cady to continue watching. She didn't feel left out; rather, she enjoyed listening to them. It was like getting to know them, without the pressure of asking the right questions, or having to answer any herself. She could learn what kind of characters they loved, translating to what they like in real people. They discussed movie genres, music, politics, everything under the sun, and Cady absorbed it like a sponge.
Without realizing it, Cady began to tune them out in favor of watching their physical interactions. Years on the Savannah let her parents teach her about how to read someone's body language in order to find out what they wanted and how they felt. Observing, instead of involving herself, became automatic and habitual. She could see that Janis and Damian were incredibly comfortable with each other, but that was easy.
Damian was rather easy to read, he was an open book. He meant what he said, usually, and didn't hide how he felt. He was kind and gave people the benefit of the doubt, but would die before letting others hurt him or Janis. Cady wondered if she was now included in that, too.
Janis, on the other hand, was harder. Sure, she never pretended to be what she wasn't, but that didn't mean she was open like Damian. She protected herself, even with people she trusted. Cady put that on her past with Regina, only worsened by what Cady herself had done. She ignored the gnawing guilt, knowing there was nothing more she could do than be a better friend, and continued to stare at Janis.
She was lounging comfortably, almost lying down, resting her upper body on Damian's shoulder as they spoke. He didn't react as she did this, seemingly used to it. Despite her trust issues, Janis was one of the most physically affectionate people Cady had ever met. Once she made a friend, she did not hesitate to hug, hold hands, or use someone as a pillow. On occasion she would even use her friends as a canvas, doodling on them with pen or sharpie, adding decals to their clothing, given they said she could. Cady fondly smiled, thinking of all the paint-stained jackets that could be found in Janis' closet, from random smears to phrases about freedom and self-respect. Janis was truly proud of everything she was.
Her phone rang, snapping Cady out of her observations. Now both of her friends were glancing between her and the phone, waiting for her to answer. She gave a grin, mouthed an apology, and answered the phone. She whispered until she reached the doors, at which point she stood outside in a corner.
Cady glanced inside the cafeteria, searching for any signs of exclusion and/or loneliness. She still couldn't find the three girls she had spent so much time with. Were they okay? "It's kinda weird," she answered. "People are nicer now, all of a sudden. Mingling between different groups. I guess Ms. Norbury's apology notes worked."
Aaron didn't seem to be listening. "Oh, that's really cool!" Suddenly his voice was quiet, like he was holding his phone away from his mouth. "Sorry, I'm back. My mom needs me. I'll call you later, okay?"
Cady nodded weakly before realizing he couldn't see her. "Bye!" She locked her phone, feeling unsure. She had liked Aaron so, so much before. But now that they were together, she felt off. It all felt so fake, forced, and talking to him would always make her think about the two parties they both attended. Halloween had broken her heart, and her houseparty broke his. He had forgiven her, but it still weighed down on her mind. It wasn't like they acted like a couple, anyways. They were long-distance friends. Cady doubted his going to college soon would make it easier. But after everything they went through to get where they are, shouldn't she be able to enjoy finally getting what she wanted?
As Cady turned to walk back in the cafeteria, she was surprised to see Karen, inches away from her face. "Hi, Cady. Who was that?"
"Oh, it was Aaron." Karen nodded, but didn't seem to really absorb the information. They were silent there for a second, but Karen didn't seem to mind. "How have you been? I didn't see you or the girls sitting at your usual table."
"Yeah, Regina's still home because her neck injury needs to be tended. Her doctor said she wasn't technically allowed to go to Spring Fling, but she wasn't gonna let something like a serious injury stop her." She laughed a little bit. "Gretchen offered to stay home with her to help. I think she just wants to talk to Regina because she's really nice on pain medication. And I've been sitting with some of the jocks. They're really nice to me!"
Cady and Karen both looked into the cafeteria, towards the tables in question. They were arm wrestling and yelling at each other, overall making a commotion that Cady was surprised she hadn't heard earlier. However, a couple boys spotted Karen looking and gave a friendly wave.
"That's...nice!" Looking back at her own table, Cady spotted Janis waving her back over. Damian was gagging and putting bunny ears behind her head. Karen waved at them; Damian waved back, and Janis paused, lowering her arm, before timidly waving back. Karen didn't read the action as hostile, only smiling wider. She and Cady went their separate ways after agreeing to chat later. Not soon enough, apparently, because Janis was halfway across the cafeteria to retrieve Cady. She was doing a speedwalk, almost a jog, making Cady wonder what was so important that she had to return immediately. Without a word, Janis gripped her wrist and dragging her back inside.
"Anything important happen?" Cady asked, struggling to keep up.
"Huh? No. Why?"
"Uh-just didn't wanna miss out. What were you talking about after I left?"
"Movies, or something. Speaking of, we're going to Damian's house afterschool. That okay with you?" They were almost back at the table, and Janis finally turned around to look at Cady and grin. She let go of her wrist, leaving it still feeling warm, like her hand was still there. Cady gently touched her other hand to it.
"Janis, I'm still kinda grounded. I can ask, though."
She grinned and ran ahead towards the table, dragging Cady behind. She couldn't find it in her to be annoyed.
"Welcome back, gays," Damian shouted, unafraid of the stares he earned. Janis flicked his ear before sitting back down, this time next to Cady. She wasted no time in getting comfortable, putting an arm around Cady and resting her head on Cady's shoulders. She settled in, now understanding how easily Damian could adjust. For some reason, Janis was rather easy to be comfortable with.
Chapter 2: On My Locker, With A Key
definitely accidentally posted a draft for the third chapter last night for like 4 seconds... whoops. Enjoy, thank you for reading!
“Bullshit!” Janis screamed. She was kicking anything in her path, which was everything when she was pacing around in circles in her small garage, paintings and supplies strewn around wherever they could balance. A foot through this, a stomp on that, and the damage from her boots was evident.
“Janis, I really don’t understand what happened.” Cady was pleading with her friend, knowing how much work she put into her art, how much they could mean to her. She was ruining them for who knows why.
“Fucking Regina and her fucking neck brace painted with fucking rainbow! And if that wasn’t bad enough, she’s wearing that shirt- who does she think she is?”
Cady recalled seeing Regina back at school, for the first time since she was suspended; she had shown up, confident as ever, wearing a shirt that said “No One Knows I’m A Lesbian” in blocky white letters, and the metal around her head had a small rainbow flag hand-painted on it. It had brought Regina a lot of attention, whispers about her personal affairs, but Cady had mostly thought about their reconciliation. She hadn’t really put the puzzle pieces of Regina’s outfit together until now.
“Isn’t that a good thing? She’s happy to be herself, now. Plus, she won’t exactly be mean to you about that anymore-”
“That’s the problem, Caddy. She thinks she can bully me about being a lesbian, endlessly torturing me for years, and then be all out and proud like it never happened? That’s not fair, and it pisses me off! How can she expect me to be happy for her after everything I went through?”
Before Cady could even think about interrupting, Janis began yelling. “We were kids, we were friends! I didn’t even know what ‘dyke’ meant until I went home that day! And then when I finally did want to come out, all I could think about was how she turned everyone against me for that-she put me through hell!” Her voice started cracking, ending her speech. She took a seat on her paint-stained floor and looked at anything but Cady.
Timidly, Cady walked towards Janis, hand out in an attempt to comfort her. She rested her hand on the other’s head, gently patting, and when she didn’t recoil, began to run her fingers through her hair.
“Maybe it’s time to forgive, Janis. I know it’s hard, but things are different. Regina is different.”
“How am I supposed to forgive someone,” Janis started, finally looking up, revealing tears threatening to spill, “who hasn’t bothered to apologize?”
The next day, Cady was on a mission, and nothing would stop her.
As she stomped through the halls, people nearly jumped out of her path. They were afraid of her, like they were after Regina was hit by the bus. This time, Cady enjoyed it. She reveled in it.
After hours of going class-to-class, nearly late from making detours each time, she encountered her objective.
“Regina, we need to talk.”
She turned, and Cady saw that some of the paint was faded and smudged, but still very much visible. A button was added, on her purse with stripes of different shades of pink covering it. The sight only made her more determined since last night.
“Not right now, I’m meeting Mr. Bock about my grade.” She turned away dismissively. Cady didn’t budge.
“No, Regina. Now.”
“Well, someone’s grown a spine. Being popular really changes a person-but we all knew that.” Regina was smirking, but she seemed legitimately impressed. She still had a ways to go on treating people well, but there was progress. This would only help her along some more.
However, now that Cady was here, she was at a loss for what to do. In her head, this moment was epic, and inspiring, something from a movie where the love interest stood up-no, wait. That wasn’t right, was it? It didn’t matter, all of it was wrong. She didn’t know how to start without coming off as rude, though it shouldn’t matter with their history. She had to make a point, be able to make it about Janis, not just an attack on Regina.
“You need to apologize.” Well, better than nothing.
“For what?” She had her regular, haughty face, but seemed genuinely confused, like she was worried what she’d done wrong.
With that, Regina went stiff. Jaw tight, fists clenched, and if she were able Cady was certain that her shoulders would raise protectively. She understood. She glanced up at her rainbow headgear, pale in the face. When she looked back at Cady, she was afraid. Of what, exactly, neither seemed to know, but the idea of finally admitting what she had done to Janis terrified her. Cady would feel some pity if not for knowing their history. Regina today was a good person, or at least trying to be. But back then, she acted like a monster. And that was her mistake to make up for.
Nothing came of the confrontation for weeks, not that Cady knew of. Neither girl involved mentioned anything afterwards until Cady had nearly forgotten. She never saw any interaction; she barely ever saw Regina in general, and not for a lack of trying. On days she sat with her Mathletes team, once the discussions of strategy and practice ended, they would become the people that had made her wary of joining before. Their video games, their objectification of women, it wasn't what Cady was comfortable with. So instead, she people-watched.
Her first observed party was her own friends. At some point, Karen had begun to sit with them. No one wanted to ask, and she didn't see any reason to explain, so they all accepted this as the new normal. And once Regina was back, Gretchen was too. Seeking the familiar, she joined them. Their group of three grew to five.
Cady watched as Karen gently took Janis' hair and began to play with it. She froze for a moment before settling and allowing it, continuing her conversation. Gretchen was hyper and always moving, her mouth as quick as ever, but she seemed less afraid. She spoke with excitement, rather than a need to throw her thoughts out before she was pushed away and ignored. Damian very much encouraged her by matching her excitement, as Cady watched them both cheer, raising their arms high. She smiled to herself before moving on, in search of the final member of the ex-clique.
Regina seemed to be hiding, after relinquishing her crown both literally and figuratively. When Cady won Spring Fling Queen, everything was thrown into more chaos than it already had been. It was as though Regina wasn't ready to accept the change. Her performative coming out was a way for her to feel that normalcy, to control the attention she received once again. This time, it was only temporary, and came with consequences like she had never experienced before.
So, perhaps Regina wasn't ready to be another regular student. She had to be given time to heal, more than just physically.
"Yo, Africa. You don't gotta stay if you don't want to." Kevin was waving a hand in her face, drawing her attention back towards her team.
"Sorry!" She wasn't, really, but it was polite.
"Doesn't matter. I'm serious, you don't have to sit with us. Not our problem if you're not on our level!" He raised his hand for a high-five, but neither of the boys gave him the satisfaction. The blonde one, Tyler, snickered, and Kevin sighed before high-fiving himself and turning away from Cady, signaling for her to return to her regular table.
Janis was staring at her. Not in the usual way, where she waited for her to be in earshot before updating her or telling a joke. This stare was unsettling, like she was waiting for something. It didn't stop when Damian, Karen, and Gretchen greeted Cady and roped her into conversation. Only when Cady attempted to speak did Janis reveal anything:
"You didn't have to do that. I didn't ask you to-I didn't want you to."
Cady's brain short-circuited for a second before understanding, so she just stared back. Janis didn't waver.
"I didn't do it because you wanted it. I did it because you needed it." She surprised herself as much as she did the other girl, though both did their best to mask it; Cady was sure both failed. They maintained eye contact nonetheless, and if she weren't so serious she would have backed off long ago. But this was important to her, standing up for her best friend. Showing how much she changed, that she meant her apology. It wasn't just for Janis; it was a little bit for herself, too. But mostly for Janis.
"You didn't have to do that," she repeated, losing resolve.
"Of course I had to." Cady wanted to say more, so much more, but she didn't know what. So she didn't, letting it hang over them.
"Didn't have to do what?" Gretchen asked, watching them both anxiously. Whether because of the tension or because she didn't know something, Cady wasn't sure, but the persistently-moving fingers were overly familiar.
"Janis' test was marked wrong in math. I told her teacher that she got the answer right, even though she told me not to." The lie came out easily, after being taught by Regina over the year. Gretchen nodded and calmed down, but Damian gave a suspicious glare towards Janis. Cady wondered if she told him, about her anger or about Cady telling Regina to apologize. She wasn't surprised that Gretchen wasn't caught up, but Janis usually told Damian everything. Now, though, she shrugged him off, looking back towards Cady. A small smile replaced her earlier frown. Cady felt warmth bubble up in her stomach, knowing that Regina actually followed through, and that Janis appreciated it.
Next time she would ask first, though. She would hate if her interference made Janis mad at her.
Janis went over to her house that day. Unlike most times when they were together, there was a thick silence hanging over them. The walk home wasn’t long, but every step felt purposeless until they reached her porch.
It stayed that way, besides greeting her parents, until Cady had closed her bedroom door with the two of them inside.
The bubbly warmth returned, and Cady found she couldn’t respond, only smile.
Still, Janis seemed on edge.
“Does Damian know?”
“Some,” she answered vaguely. “He knows I was angry. He tried to calm me down, and I acted like it worked so he wouldn’t get worried. And he was there when Regina came up to me.”
“What happened? When she talked to you?”
Sighing, Janis sat on the bed and pat next to her, beckoning Cady. There they sat, shoulders and knees rubbing together in a way that caused Cady’s heart to flutter like it would with Aaron. That’s normal, right?
Janis had been in the bathroom when it happened. A hand wrapped around her wrist and tugged backwards. Janis didn’t move far, pulling back, and suddenly Regina George stood in front of her.
“What the shit?”
“Don’t be crass, Janis.” Regina flipped her hair best she could in her manmade exoskeleton. Still, she was tapping her foot incessantly, like she would when waiting for Gretchen to stop talking. She was avoiding Janis’ eyes, too.
“What do you want?”
Regina didn’t answer for a few seconds. She closed her eyes and took deep breaths, each longer than the last, before finally looking right at Janis.
And then she surprised her.
“I’m sorry.” When Janis didn’t respond, she continued. “I’m sorry about bullying you in eighth grade and making you take a year off. It was rude of me.”
Janis laughed. “Rude? That’s the word you chose? Alright, whatever.” She turned to leave, but Regina moved to block the exit.
“That’s it? You’re gonna laugh and leave? I didn’t expect forgiveness, but give me a little more than that.”
“Give you more? More what?” Janis ground her teeth.
“More anything. Sadness? Anger? I know you, Janis, you’re not emotionless.” Regina stared expectantly, arms crossed in front of her. Janis took one look at the faded paint on her head, and gave her what she wanted.
“You want anger? Okay. Fuck you.” Regina didn’t move. “Fuck you for nearly ruining my life and then thinking I’m gonna be cool with you coming out. I know it was years ago, but you haven’t exactly done anything to prove you’ve changed. Just last month you were mocking me about ‘jumping into a pile of girls’ or whatever, and here you are acting like you have a right to be worshipped as queen of the gays.”
“No, I’m not done.” Janis hadn’t expected it to come out of her mouth, but it wasn’t wrong, so she kept going, noting that Regina simple sighed and accepted it.
“You don’t get just what happened to me. Not only did the whole school hate me-I hated myself, because of how I feel. I couldn’t be around girls without being terrified that I’m some kind of predator, that they’ll think I’m in love with them and leave. Damian was my only friend for years because he understood that feeling, and helped me accept what you put in my mind. So excuse me for taking years to accept myself after the shit you pulled, and then not welcome you with open arms to the gay club of Northshore.”
Regina nodded back. Janis didn’t know if she should feel pissed or not about it.
“I do get it.” When Janis opened her mouth to retort, she put a hand up. “No, not exactly what you went through. But I get the fear. It’s why I did what I did; I was afraid of how our friends would react, and pushed it on you. I’m sorry.”
Silence. Then, “You really are a human person,” Janis smirked.
“Oh god, Cady told you about that?”
“Sure did, Reginald.”
They stood there, and despite claiming that she didn’t expect forgiveness, Regina seemed to be waiting for it. Or anything, at least, other than silent eye contact.
“Now that that’s off my chest, can I go on my gay way without being hunted down by the jungle girl?”
Janis snorted. “Yeah, go.” When Regina turned, she asked, “Cady made you do this?”
“She didn’t force me, just reminded me it’s something that decent people do. Which is what I’m currently trying to be, so you’re welcome.” With that, she left, and Janis was left smiling at the floor.
Chapter 3: Everybody Wants Connection
It was suffice to say that Cady had a lot of expectations about teenage life in America. This was especially true about summer vacation.
Sure, she wasn’t very immersed in TV culture, but she had time to read books. The year before they moved, she tended towards the young adult novels; she could read about people her age overcoming obstacles and bonding and everything she could dream of.
The reality was nothing like that.
For one thing, she couldn’t drive, so she had to rely on others to give her rides. Janis had a license but no car, and Damian refused to try. He stuck to the jazzy.
Janis lived relatively close to Cady, and she had walked several times when school was in session. But with summer came heat so disgusting that if Cady attempted it now, she would arrive as more sweat than girl.
When rides could be arranged, and no one was forced to decline for sake of family time, it was good. Cady just wished it happened more often.
After a few weeks of struggling, Damian suggested they invite Gretchen.
2gay2function: she’s lonely and has a car. Win-win
artfreak: Can she drive?
2gay2function: ill ask
2gay2function: no but karen can.
mathmachine: No she can’t. Trust me. She should never be behind the wheel
artfreak: What abt regina?
mathmachine: Are you sure, Janis? I know she apologized but we don’t have to be friends if you don’t want to
artfreak: Im a strong girl i can handle it. If im wrong ill kick her out myself
2gay2function: gretchen texted regina before you even suggested it so
2gay2function: good thing youre okay with it bc regina is already making the rounds, i gave gretchen my address to send to her
mathmachine: I can make a new group chat with them to make this easier?
2gay2function: please do. i cant be the middle man plus that could be the perfect dose of chaos we need
artfreak: RIP peace and quiet
mathmachine: You can mute it if you want. If anything important happens, I can dm you
artfreak: Nah. Thanks though <3
Cady set down her phone, unable to think clearly enough to send a worthwhile response. It took a couple more notifications from Damian to remind her of her promise to make a Plastics-inclusive group chat.
Almost immediately, Gretchen was sending minute-by-minute updates of Regina’s progress. Apparently, she had been picked up first.
jewishprincess: karen we’re otw!!!!!!
halloween: Okay! Is regina invited?
2gay2function: hon shes driving
halloween: Why is gretch texting than?
mathmachine: Because it’s unsafe to text and drive and I really hope you know that you shouldn’t do that
Soon enough, they were all squished into a white car with three rows of seats. Not something Cady really expected Regina to drive.
“Mom traded in my baby for this thing. Said it was safer, she got all paranoid after the bus thing. Like, owning a bigger car won’t save me if I’m walking! Duh!”
Cady shifted uncomfortably in the back, both from the mention of the bus (even if she’d had her spinal palo removed) and from being in the middle seat. Damian sat to her left, chatting animatedly with Karen in front of him, while Gretchen sat shotgun and controlled the music and GPS. Janis sat to her right and rarely spoke, choosing instead to look pensively out her window.
“Are you okay?”
Janis didn’t respond, so Cady nudged her with the elbow already grazing her side.
“Sorry,” she smiled lazily. “I was just thinking...I never expected that this was where I’d be.”
“In Regina’s car?”
“Yeah, that, but more, too. I don’t know.” Janis shrugged and slouched in her seat. After a second of her attempting to resume looking out the window, Cady felt Janis lay her head against her shoulder. Janis adjusted her position, ending up resting her right arm on Cady’s thigh while her left arm crossed over her own stomach. For the rest of the ride, Cady avoided movement of any kind, even to check if Janis was asleep or just sitting like that for some reason.
“Where are we going?” Karen asked, directed at the front row.
“No one said, so I just put in the mall,” Gretchen asked. “If you guys don’t want to, I can-”
“Nope,” Regina interrupted. “I’m not turning this car around, we’re almost there. Suck it up.”
“I agree but only because I need new bath bombs and there was a cute boy working at Sephora last time I was here,” Damian said.
“Gay,” Janis muttered into Cady’s shoulder, and Cady suppressed the urge to tilt her head so that it laid on top of Janis’. That was weird, right? Too weird.
“Says you, cuddle buddy.” Damien didn’t clarify. Cady didn’t ask him to.
They shouldn’t have been surprised to end up getting kicked out of Claire’s.
Regina and Gretchen both took shopping very seriously. Karen was able to find clothes anywhere, so she followed, and Cady had spent enough time as a Plastic to have a vague understanding of the different brands and styles. Damian was along for the ride, having searched Sephora and finding none of his objectives.
This left Janis, who enjoyed shopping when it was on her terms. So she made a deal with Regina, that for every two stores Regina or Gretchen chose, she could chose one.
“Okay, so you want to go into Hot Topic?” Regina laughed, but agreed. First mistake.
“Janis,” Damian whispered. “Please don’t.”
“Don’t what?” Cady asked, looking between them curiously. Damian just stared at Janis, pleading and kind of desperate. Janis only looked ahead and tried to hold back an evil grin.
After visiting two stores that Cady didn’t take much note of, Regina asked Janis where she wanted to go.
And so, she lead them into the preteen-geared store, cackling while Damian merely sighed.
“She likes making fun of the products. You can tell that it’s made by adults that have no clue what kids like,” he explained to the rest of the girls. Cady knew it wasn’t exactly out of character, but she was still disappointed. Maybe they could have fun anyways, even if the merchandise was rather lackluster.
“Of fucking course she would,” Regina said. “I would almost prefer Hot Topic.”
“Listen, some of their stuff isn’t as embarrassing as the rest. There’s some good designs!”
“Sure, Sarkisian. I’m sure there are.”
Janis rolled her eyes and dragged Cady in, finding a spinning tower of silly glasses. Immediately she grabbed two pairs, one with dinosaur figures atop each lense- she handed this pair to Cady- and the other decorated with mini-palm trees to each outer side.
“Children, please,” Damian grabbed a pair with large circular lenses that acted as magnifiers on his eyes. “Stick with the classics.”
Wordlessly Karen joined by taking a pair, and Cady couldn’t hold back a laugh at the bat wing-shaped frames. Timidly, Gretchen walked towards the tower before she glanced back at Regina. Before the blonde could respond, Gretchen determinedly continued and chose a pair at random.
“You’re all children,” Regina said.
“Gretch, I LOVE your new glasses. Are they designer?” Damian was having the time of his life, it seemed, posing dramatically in the small mirror on the wall next to them.
“Coach,” she answered, adjusting them by the long spider legs to each side before giggling.
“Come on, Regina!” Cady was pushing the tower around, looking for the perfect glasses. Silently, Janis stopped it’s turning, and Cady looked at her worriedly before seeing her friend turn around and pull a headband off the wall, hiding its design with her body.
“Over my dead body.” Hiding from everyone but Regina, apparently.
“We both know I would be willing to make that sacrifice. Put it on.” Janis forced the headband on the blonde and moved to reveal the spectacle:
Regina George, in all her healed glory, with bright blue Troll hair shooting up above her blonde head.
The group broke. Damian was having trouble breathing, Gretchen was crying on the floor, Cady was on her knees. Karen simply hugged Regina, claiming “if this is who you want to be, we accept you.”
And Janis stood to the side, smirking at Regina while the latter was trying to pretend to be angry, but failing miserably everytime she glanced at the mirror. Eventually she cracked, letting out a small laugh, before considering her reflection.
“I make it work,” she said.
Before anyone could agree, or continue trying things on, an employee addressed them.
“You guys are kind of disturbing the other customers,” she said bashfully. “If you’re not going to buy anything, I’m going to have to ask you to leave.”
“Dammit, Janis,” Damian whispered, but Cady elbowed him.
Karen thanked the employee and left, and the rest followed suit, Gretchen anxiously pacing between the employee and Regina in case she had a snarky comment to make. Luckily, no one else spoke until they reached a Starbucks.
“That was all I’ve wanted to do for years but no one would let me.” Janis was grinning widely, happier than Cady has seen in a long time.
Damian hooked his arm around her shoulders and shook her. “I always knew you were still filled with childlike wonder.”
“Fuck off,” She was still grinning, and didn’t move away from him. “I’m a cold, bitter shell of a person.”
“We already knew that, Jan,” Regina said.
Cady tuned out for the conversation, electing instead to take in Janis’ smile. She hadn’t wanted to make fun of the products how Cady had expected; instead, she simply goofed off. Cady tried not to think about how her friend had pulled her forward first, picked out silly animal-based glasses specifically for her. She pushed that nagging thought down to focus on the brightness in Janis’ eyes, how her laugh sounded, loud and pure and unashamed.
Gretchen ordered a drink and they waited for her, Karen taking a sip from the cup and making a face. They walked around the mall for hours, having a much better time than Cady could have predicted, even when they had the purpose of actually buying the products.
Janis managed to make that more fun, too, recommending rather...ill-advised outfit pairings, going as far as to try them on herself.
Cady supposed any activity was fun with the right company. The books she read weren’t too far off, anymore.
Chapter 4: Never Get It
hey y’all sorry that it’s been a while i just started college. Once i get more acclimated and such it will hopefully get better. Thank you for reading!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
It started with a text, as it is want to do in this modern age.
mathmachine: Aaron and I broke up.
Cady didn’t know why she worded it like that; it was entirely her doing, Aaron merely asking if she was sure several times before accepting it. She supposed it was his way of being respectful while trying to make her reconsider. She wasn’t upset, really. They never got the chance to properly be together.
jewishprincess: are you ok???
mathmachine: Yeah. Just thought you guys should know
prettypoison: Did he do something dumb, or was it just boring?
2gay2function: regina i really dont think this is the time
prettypoison: What? I’m trying to bond with Cady over a shared ex.
prettypoison: And I’m not wrong.
Despite knowing her friends would he worried, she didn’t respond. She glanced over the texts, noting that Janis in particular hadn’t said anything. Surprising, that she hadn’t jumped at the chance to make some kind of anti-boy joke to make Cady laugh.
“Sorry, Damian. I’ll fix it: straight boys? Wack.”
Cady sat on her bed, hugging her knees to her chest. No, she wasn’t sad, but that felt wrong. Wasn’t she supposed to be upset? Wasn't she supposed to be remembering how happy she was with Aaron, instead of thinking about her best friend? Though, maybe she just wanted that comfort. Yeah, that was it. She wanted Janis around to make her feel better about the breakup.
There was a knock at her bedroom door. She considered pretending to be asleep, ignore whatever comforting sentiment her mother had. Cady had admitted her own neutrality on the break up, but her mother had taken that as a cry for help. She sighed; her mother only wanted the best for her. She got off her bed, but the door opened before she reached it.
“Hey, Caddy,” Janis fell onto the bed, making herself at home. She was over often enough to be familiar with the layout and her permission to do as she pleased; she began adjusting the pillows so that she could comfortably sit against the wall right beside Cady, Janis' right leg crossing over Cady's left.
“What are you doing here? Did my parents let you in?”
She nodded. “Your mom was really happy to see me, after I said I wanted to make sure you’re okay. She seems worried about you.”
“Yeah,” Cady wasn’t sure what else to say. Without warning, Janis had read her message and started walking here. For her. “Thanks,” she said dumbly.
“I’d offer to kick his ass, but from how you talk about him I figure he didn’t do anything to ruin things.”
“Do you wanna talk about it? If not, it’s fine, I get it, and I brought snacks and movies for that very situation.”
Cady gave her friend a small grin. She realized she hadn’t smiled all day. Almost too fast to be reactive, she moved closer, and Cady laid her head on Janis’ shoulder. They were holding hands, and she couldn’t remember when it started but she didn’t mind. Janis was rubbing her thumb in circles over Cady's skin, and her eyes fluttered, fighting to stay open. She almost forgot Janis had asked her a question. “We weren’t good. Together. I know relationships aren’t ‘easy,’” Cady didn’t bother to let go of Janis’ hand as she held her own up to air quote. “But they shouldn’t be like, impossible to maintain, right? Half the time I wasn’t even sure I liked him enough to try.”
Janis nodded. Cady noticed her thumb wasn't moving anymore. She missed it.
“The worst part is that I did so much to be with him. I hurt you, just to spend time with him. All the bad things I did, the person I became, was for him. And seeing him, talking to him, I always had this...kind of a verbal headache?” Cady wasn’t sure where she was going with that. Janis laughed at her a little, and she felt herself smile again, very warm with their proximity. She was starting to think she could survive winter in a bikini, as long as Janis was there, smiling at her.
“That doesn’t make sense,” she blurted out.
“Not really,” Janis agreed. “But I kind of get it. Like, a thought youre trying to ignore, but it’s so loud and persistent.”
“Yes!” Cady sat up, gripping her friend's hand a little tighter. “I just kept thinking about how... it shouldn’t have worked out for me. I shouldn’t have won the boy.”
“He reminded you of the bad things, instead of the good.”
“Breaking up with him was a relief,” Cady said. “I wasn’t sad. But knowing I wasn’t sad, made me sad. Did that make sense?”
Janis nodded. “Expectations,” she said simply.
Janis held Cady tighter, the hand not holding hers wrapped around her head protectively. Cady couldn’t help but think that she’d never been like this with Aaron; so close, so comfortable and easy. Janis was just different, she supposed.
“You know,” the girl in question started, “everyone’s pretty worried about you. You haven’t replied in a while. Do you want me to, for you?”
Cady shook her head and reached for her phone, doing her best not to move to far away from where Janis held her. One hand still holding hers, Cady read through the chat, mostly consisting of the Plastics getting off-track while Damian corrals them into trying to comfort Cady. She smiled slightly, and Janis seemed to notice, as she started playing with Cady’s hair, long nails scratching pleasantly.
mathmachine: I’m okay, guys, really
mathmachine: Janis came over. Not that I needed it anyways, but that should placate you, right?
2gay2function: u invited janis over? this is homophobia
prettypoison: Seconded. Very rude of you, Cady.
mathmachine: I didn’t invite her. She came over without asking
“You’re happy I’m here, Caddy,” Janis said, and Cady realized she was reading the texts over her shoulder. She nudged her shoulder back into Janis.
“I’m glad you broke in.” She meant it, but then she looked away from Janis because she wasn't quite sure what it was she meant and she didn't want Janis to know what she felt before she did. She stared at her phone, only half reading because she felt Janis behind her and was thinking about how pretty she looked and the way she smiled at Cady, similar to how she smiled for Damian but not quite, and nothing like the smile for any of the Plastics. She wondered what the difference was, and how it was that she noticed.
jewishprincess: can we come over 2?
mathmachine: Not a party! Definitely not!
mathmachine: I’m sure my parents wouldn’t mind a SIMPLE HANGOUT, though. I’ll ask them
Cady hadn’t noticed Janis whip her own phone out until she received the message:
artfreak: u hoes arent cool enough
artfreak: caddy just loves me most
2gay2function: how DARE you sarkisian!!!
jewishprincess: dnt wrry dam shes just protective of cady
jewishprincess: jealous type?
prettypoison: aww, janny doesn’t wanna share
halloween: r they d8ing? Cute!
Cady felt a blush rush to her cheeks and quickly put the phone down, leaping from off her bed and away from Janis to ask her parents for permission. She pretended not to notice how cold she felt now, or how her hand felt odd alone.
Within the hour, all five of her closest friends had invaded her house. Cady’s mom had offered to give them all rides, still worried for her daughter, but as it were Regina was ready to make the rounds without parental permission.
“Hey, bitch,” Regina greeted, patting Cady on the cheek as she walked in the house.
“Hi, Cady!” Gretchen gave her a tight hug, holding a giftbag in one hand. “I brought movies: it’s, like, a rite of passage after a breakup to watch romcoms and make fun of them. Oh, and some ice cream! They have to go in a freezer first, though,” she looked apologetic as she rushed towards Cady’s kitchen without letting her mention that Janis had already brought movies. Not like they would bring the same ones, anyways.
“Hey, Cady. I like your house! It looks familiar...” Karen walked in admiring the decorations, eyes in constant motion.
Damian followed. “Caddy Heron, I’m very disappointed in you for not telling me as soon as Janis arrived.” His grin betrayed his voice, revealing his joke to a wary Cady. She nodded and laughed, still slightly afraid, as he walked to ‘confront’ Janis. Cady looked at her, apologetic but very amused. Janis fended off Damian before glancing back, shooting a smirk. Cady felt that familiar warmth again, rising from inside and overflowing into the smile she sent in return. She might've been embarrassed about the way her cheeks hurt from stretching if it weren't for Janis ignoring Damian to keep looking at her. Still, she broke eye contact first.
She looked as Karen wandered over to join the other two, while Regina and Gretchen conversed in the kitchen, ice cream yet to be put in the freezer.
Never did she think this was where she would be, with both groups united peacefully. Perhaps that was what Janis had meant, on the way to the mall. How strange it was for their unity to be so simple, as though they had never been at odds. As though Cady hadn’t been expected to pick a side. She watched with a pleased expression as Gretchen and Regina joined Karen, Damian, and Janis in the living room.
"What movie first, Gretch?" Regina started digging into Gretchen's purse until the latter pulled out a dvd case with a flourish, showing the rest of the group.
"Molly Ringwald is a must-watch after breakups."
"There sure are a lot of rules," Cady said, nervously watching her friends. Gretchen waved her arms, dismissing the notion.
"Not rules, just...it's a feel good movie in general, right? Fun to watch and silly and kind of easy to make fun of. Perfect for break ups, good or bad."
"If we have to watch that, I pick next." Janis grinned mischievously, pulling out a dvd case from her own bag to show the group. Without reading the title, Cady can tell it's a horror movie; it's nearly pitch black, with some lighter shades probably meant to be shadows, and words written in blood-red.
"Janis, no," Damian pushed her arm down, and she replaced that case with another, much brighter one.
"I figured," she said, handing Cady the movie.
"It's not Kenya, but close enough, right?" Janis looked uneasy, waiting for affirmation. It was strange, her being so unsure of herself. Cady gave her a wide smile to ease her nerves. She returned it, straightening her back as though the moment of doubt had never happened. Without realizing, their hands had joined once again. Cady gave her friend’s hand a small squeeze.
"Fine, we'll watch that after. I choose next, then Damien, then Karen. Cady will decide if we keep watching movies or do something else." Regina was quick to make orders, still. "Is this a sleepover?"
"Uh, I didn't ask?"
"They'd probably be okay with it," Janis said. Grinning, she added "at least, with me they would."
"We get it, Janis, you're basically their daughter-in-law." Damian stood behind the two of them and messed their hair up. Janis batted him away, tightening her grip on Cady's hand slightly as if she would let go, run away. Cady squeezed again, hoping no one can see her blush. She knows Regina can, by the look on the blonde's face. She turned away, though, taking Gretchen's movie and going to the TV.
Janis quickly jumped onto the reclining chair, tugging Cady with her so their legs were crossed over each other, shoulders bumping and pinkies locked together. Janis leaned her head against Cady’s.
Cady did her best to watch the movie- she was sure that, under different circumstances, she would enjoy it. She related to being rather overlooked in high school, or she used to, and the cute senior that was sweeter than he seemed. But sitting there, perfectly fit with Janis, trying to focus on feeling the other girl’s pulse and talk herself down from somehow moving closer or stare at her instead of the movie, the last thing on her mind was Aaron.
She didn’t think it was too bad of a change. If she had to trade in the boy for friends like these, for being like this with Janis, it was an easy give.
Trying to ignore the way Damian was looking towards the two of them and smiling for a reason she couldn’t guess, Cady took Janis’ hand and held it over her stomach. She wondered if her friend was as at peace as she was, if this was normal for American high school girls, if there was a reason she was as excited now as she had been when Aaron first spoke to her.
Maybe it wasn’t normal, persay, but that didn’t quite mean it was bad. That was a lesson Janis had taught her, whether she meant to or not.
Gretchen laughed, and brought Cady out of her thoughts to realize she was playing with Janis’ hair. She froze, ready to excuse herself, when she realized that the other girl didn’t mind. If anything, she enjoyed it, and if the others noticed they made no comment. Quietly, tremulously, she resumed running her fingers through some of it, and laughed to herself when Janis closed her eyes.
She was stupid with love, but smart enough to recognize the feeling as it bloomed inside her.
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