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For Once, Make This About You

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There was no doubt about it. This was absolutely her fault.

If Josie had just answered the texts.

Or stopped avoiding Penelope in the hallways.

Or stopped making excuses to not be alone with the other girl.

Really, if Josie was just honest with her feelings, this all could have been avoided.

Instead, here she was. Standing next to the door to her third period math class being asked to prom by Penelope. Which honestly was the best thing that had happened in the sixteen years she had been alive. The problem: Lizzie standing next to her glaring and Hope on Josie’s other side, an all-knowing smirk on her face.

“The answer is no, Satan. What even makes you think that she would want to talk to you, let alone go to a dance with you?” Lizzie sneered. Lizzie, of course, didn’t know about all the time Josie and Penelope actually spent together. The nights in the library or the lunches in the gym. Or the couple of times Josie swore that the raven-haired girl was going to kiss her before pulling away. Or how Josie wished that she didn’t. Lizzie didn’t know any of that because Josie couldn’t tell her about her crush on her twin’s worst enemy.

Lizzie had hated Penelope since she arrived at Salvatore Boarding School for the Young and Gifted three years ago. She hated how the slightly older girl was able to waltz in and immediately become the most popular girl. She hated how Penelope could just ignore her. She hated how everyone else seemed to fall over themselves to get even a little bit of attention from Penelope.

“Good thing I wasn’t asking you. Didn’t jock boy ask you already?” Penelope responded, leaning causally against the wall opposite them, as if she wasn’t starting a war. “Or, did Raf finally figure out that you weren’t worth the hassle, barbie?” Penelope wasn’t innocent in the feud, either. She took a jab at Lizzie whenever she got a chance. She never let anything go and certainly went out of her way to prove Lizzie wrong at every corner.

All of this is to say that Josie couldn’t like Penelope. She couldn’t, not if she wanted her sister to talk to her. But, she did. And she didn’t know what to do about it.

“For your information, I dumped Raf, like, a week ago. I am free to go to prom with who ever I want. Not you. Obviously, I don’t have time to get a tetanus shot.” Lizzie countered.

And, luckily, at least for Josie, the bell rung before Penelope could even finish scoffing. “Look at that. Guess we have to get to class. That math test isn’t gonna ace itself.” Josie squeaked before quickly going to enter the classroom. She didn’t get far before feeling her hand being grabbed.

“JoJo. Prom?” Penelope asked again.

Josie turned around slowly. She tried not looking the other girl in the eyes, knowing she couldn’t get lost in the hazel eyes. It wasn’t going to end well if she did. She glanced over to Hope, pleading for an answer. Hope, being Hope, both helped and hurt the situation. “Come on, Lizzie. Let’s give these two a second.” Hope didn’t give the blonde a chance to respond before dragging her towards third period. Josie didn’t miss the look confused look Lizzie shot her before turning down a different hallway.

“JoJo?” Penelope took a step closer, fully interlocking their fingers. Josie loved the feeling, it grounded her in a way she didn’t want to admit. “You haven’t given me answer. Kind of leaving me hanging right now.”

“Did you have to do that?” Josie asked. “You know what Lizzie is like.” She didn’t mean to say it. She didn’t know what she meant to say, but it wasn’t that. That was a lot more bitter then she wanted. Cause she wasn’t bitter. She wanted to go to prom with Penelope. She was going to prom with Penelope. She just wasn’t sure how quite yet.

Penelope sighed. “You’ve been avoiding me. Don’t even pretend you weren’t. Prom is in two weeks and you know I need time to plan to look as good as I do.” She stepped back, letting Josie’s hand drop. “And why does Lizzie matter? I’m not taking her to prom.”

“She’s my sister. You might not have to see her outside of class, but I have to share a room with her. And if you haven’t spent your entire time in this school annoying her, I wouldn’t have to feel guilty about wanting to date you.”

“So, you want to date me?” Penelope asked, her signature smirk showing up.

“That was what you took out of that?” Josie looked down, trying to hide her blush. She hadn’t meant to say that. “Look, we’ll talk later. I do have a math test and I can’t do this right now.” She looked up and finally met Penelope’s eyes. “I’ll stop avoiding you. Promise, okay?”
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Josie broke that promise. She continued her avoidance of Penelope the rest of the day. She pretended not to feel hazel eyes burrowing into the back of her head in the two classes she unfortunately shared with Penelope. She pretended that when she rushed out of those two classes that it had nothing to do with that same hazel-eyed girl.

Josie also pretended that she wasn’t avoiding Lizzie. She didn’t spend lunch underneath the bleachers because she caught her sister’s eye across the cafeteria. The idea of having to explain what happened in the hallway did not make Josie flee as quickly as she could. She did not find herself back under the bleachers after classes to hide from anyone. She just liked studying there.

“I get avoiding everyone else but leaving me to listen to Lizzie complain all day is just cruel.” Hope laughed at the way Josie jumped at her words. She sat down across from the brunette, lightly kicking her knee. “So, I’m gonna have to go stag to prom now, huh?”

“What? Sad that you have to go back to being a lone wolf?” Josie asked, not looking up from the essay she was trying to focus on.

“You said yes to Penelope?” The surprise was so evident in Hope’s voice that Josie looked. Pride was clear in the smile that Hope wore.

“Not officially.” Josie rushed on when she saw Hope’s smile fall. “I mean, I will. I just have to figure out what to say to Lizzie first. She has been hating on Penelope for the last three years. She is going to freak.”

“And you have been crushing on Penelope for the last three years. I have spent more Friday nights listening to you wax poetic about how the sunlight plays off her hair than either of us want to admit. She wants to go to prom with you. You want to go to prom with her. Tell Lizzie that.”

Josie shook her head. “She’s not going to be okay with it. She hasn’t called her Penelope in a year. It is always “Satan this” or “the she-devil that”. Lizzie blames Penelope for everything that has gone wrong in her life. That is not going to change just because I like her.”

“Fine, then. Don’t tell her. But she is going to find out when she sees you two together at prom. Penelope doesn’t exactly blend into the crowd.” A small laugh escaped Josie. Hope paused, seemingly letting the silence settle between them. Josie was grateful of that. Josie knew she was right. She didn’t like it. Both that she was right and that Hope would never let her live that down. “You know,” Hope started slowly, “it’s okay to go after something you want one time. With or without Lizzie’s approval. It won’t be the end of the world. No matter how big of a deal she makes of this.”

Once again, Josie knew her best friend was right. She just really wasn’t sure she liked it.
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“Where have you been? The devil’s daughter hasn’t harassed you again?” Lizzie started ranting the second the Josie stepped into their dorm. Lizzie was sitting on her bed, leaning back against her headboard, reading a magazine. “God, what got into her head that she thinks you would ev-“

“I’m going to prom with her.” Josie interrupted. She had spent the last three hours planning a speech, but she knew Lizzie was never going to listen to the very end. She figured that ripping the band-aid
off quickly was the best way to get through this. Also, the quicker she got to the point, the quicker this was over.

Lizzie set down her magazine, her attention quickly snapping to her sister. “You said yes?”

Josie nodded. “Not yet, but I’m going to.”

Lizzie shifted to sit on the edge of her bed. “Why? What kind of spell does that witch have you under?”

Josie sighed, moving to sit on her own bed. “None. I just like her. I have since I first met her.”

“But, why? She has been nothing but a bitch to us.”

“She has been a jerk to you. She can actually be really nice and sweet when she wants to be. Yes, she is bitchy, but also really funny and a dork. And I like her.”

“No. No, you don’t. If you liked her, you would have told me. You always told me when you had a crush on someone.” Lizzie accused.

“Who have I had a crush on? Raf? The guy that you then started dating a week later?” Josie replied, weariness seeping into every word. “Or Hope when I was twelve? My best friend who you then told I had a crush on her?”

“Josie-”

“Lizzie, you have never been supportive of people I’ve liked. Even Landon. I went on one date with him and you couldn’t stop calling him the thrift-store hobbit.”

Lizzie was quiet for a minute. “I’m sorry.”

“It’s okay.” Josie said with a shrug.

“No, it’s not. You are right. I guess I just didn’t like the idea of sharing or maybe I’m just selfish. I don’t know.” Lizzie stood and moved to sit down next to Josie. She threw her arms around her sister and hugged her tightly. “You could have told me. I’m sorry you felt like you couldn’t. I’ve been a bad sister.”

“No, you haven’t. I should have said something sooner. I just don’t want to fight with you.” Josie leaned into the embrace.

“We are still going to fight.” Lizzie laughed. “Penelope doesn’t deserve you. She is a jerk and a bitch and is not innocent in all of this.”

“I’ll talk to her. Pretty sure I can get her to turn the bitchiness down a notch. I’m still going to prom with her.” Josie pulled away from her twin. “I haven’t talked to her since she asked. I have told two different people I’m going with her, but I haven’t told her. I probably should.”

“I’m not going to be nice to her.” Lizzie walked back to her bed. “But I guess if you want to date Satan, I can keep the insults to a minimum.”
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Josie knocked on Penelope’s door. She fidgeted with her skirt, trying to keep her nerves at bay. It took a few moments for the door to open. “JoJo, curfew is in five minutes. Even the headmaster’s daughter would get in trouble for breaking that.” The raven-haired girl leaned against her door frame.

“I’ll be quick, I swear.” Josie took a deep breath. “I just wanted to tell you that I would love to go to prom with you. On one condition.”

“What’s the condition?” Penelope stood up straighter.

“Be nice to Lizzie. Just for one night. Please. Then, you can go back to your bitch ways. I just want to enjoy prom with two of my favorite people.”

“I’m one of those, right? I mean, you do want to date me and all.” Penelope’s smirk was back, and Josie couldn’t help herself.

The kiss was quick. Really just a peck. But to Josie, it was perfect. Penelope’s dumbstruck look afterwards was even better. “I was talking about Lizzie and Hope. But, maybe after prom, it will be my three of my favorite people.” She didn’t give Penelope a chance to respond. Just walked away feeling better about herself than she had in a while.
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In the end, prom really wasn’t a big deal. Lizzie ended up going with MG, a nerd who had been trying to date Lizzie for all of high school. Hope went stag but ended up dancing with Landon most of the night. Only after getting permission from Josie. They did go on a date once after all.

And Josie, well, she didn’t really care what her friends were up to. She was with Penelope. Penelope played nice with Lizzie, though she did do her hardest to stay as far away from the blonde as she could. Mostly trying to keep Josie to herself. Which was fine with Josie. The two enjoyed themselves, staying inside their own little bubble for the night.

That bubble eventually leads to Penelope whisking Josie out of the gym and up to the roof.

“Seriously, Pen. I spent too much on this dress to get it dirty.” Josie complained as she let Penelope pull her towards the center of the roof.

“Oh, come on. Do you really think I would let that happen? I figured you would want to stargaze, so I stashed a blanket and a few pillows up here earlier. Have some faith in me, JoJo.” Penelope quickly set to work setting out the blanket and pillows.

“Of course, what was I thinking? How will you ever forgive me?”

“Shut up and get over here.” Penelope laid down and patted the spot next to her. Josie happily and quickly settled next to her date. They sat in silence, enjoying the presence of each other. After a while, Josie started pointing out constellations. Penelope listened happily, adding in a snarky comment every few minutes. This eventually led to them talking about other things. Exactly what, neither of them could tell you, but both would say it was the best night of their lives.

The night only ended when a text from Lizzie light up Josie’s phone. “Shit. Curfew was hours ago. We got to get back.” Josie stood up before she even got the words out. She started cleaning up but stopped when Penelope started laughing.

“Don’t worry about it. I’ll get it tomorrow. Let’s get you home before you turn into a pumpkin.” Penelope interlocked their fingers and started back towards the roof access. She led the way back to the dorms, only stopping when they reached the twins’ dorm. “Your stop, my lady.” She punctuated the sentence with an exaggerated bow.

Josie covered her mouth to smother the laugh that threatened to escape. “Dork. No one knows how much of a dork you are.”

“That’s not true. Lizzie seems to have an idea. I’m assuming you had something to do with that.”

“Maybe. Or maybe you are just going soft.”

“Not a chance.”

Before Josie got a chance to respond, the door opened. “There you are. Dad stopped by twice looking for you. Don’t worry. I covered for you, but I don’t think he would have bought it a third time.” Lizzie pulled Josie inside, before turning her attention to Penelope. “Satan. I don’t want to know what you two were up to, but for future reference, I expect her home on time. No exceptions.”

Penelope was left to walk to her dorm without saying good night to her prom date after Lizzie closed the door in her face. Though, it didn’t take long for Josie to text her. Or for Penelope to text back. And neither would admit that they stayed up all night texting, but no one was fooled the next day.

Not that either of them cared. They were in their own little bubble. And they were happy there.