The Most Popular Girl [Anna Jones]

"Give the people what they want, right? Right. I know what people want, and it's me. They want something to look up to, to aspire after. I say everyone should have a goal, and I give them that. See? I do so much, and all I ask is a little bit in return. " - Anna Jones, The Most Popular Girl

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4. Chapter 3

Wow, I am good. Not only did I get the only person the general public will trust to help me take Kimi down, despite her history, I'm also going to star in a movie all about me! And that's just the momentum I need to become the most popular girl ever. I mean, nobody else had a movie made about them, not even my mother, and her picture is hanging in the fancy people hallway. I walk out of the cafeteria smiling, only to have it wiped off my face as I come immediately face to face with Kimi.

"Anna," she breathes. "Hi- er, um-" I sidestep her and keep walking. I don't need that kind of poison in my life.

Annoyingly, she follows me. Ugh, its so hard having mindless followers. 

I whirl around and put my hands on my hips. "What do you want, Kimi?"

She fidgets with the holes at the cuffs of her sweater. "Are you mad at me?"

"Took you long enough," I say, lacing just enough venom into my voice to make her wince. 

"I'm sorry," she says, looking at her shoes. "But what did I do?"

"What did you do?" I echo in disbelief. "Really, Kimi, you're so stupid you don't even know what you did?" 

"Oh, I, uh..."

The volcano of anger inside erupts, and red hot words spill out. "God, Kimi. I opened up to you! You're the one I called when that monster hurt me, and then today you're still talking to him? I saw you! You can't hide from me!" 

"B-but Wyatt is my friend, he wouldn't-" She shakes with my every syllable, and tears start choking her voice. Then, more quietly, she says "It's not a big deal..."

"It is so a big deal! You believe his story over mine!" I don't have words to express the fiery hole in my chest. "You'd rather be friends with a raging psychopath than me! You'd rather talk to some guy than your best friend! I did you a favor letting you be my friend and this is how you repay me?!" Now my cheeks are getting red. She's ruined my face too. 

"I'm sorry," she says again. Tears drip from her face onto her crusty shoes, making little mud puddles. 

"That's not good enough," I say, and walk away. What a rush. 

I don't see her again all day. Good. I hope I never see her again.

 

-[-~-]-

 

A day later, I find my way to the production wing after school. Every door here is wrapped up in whatever represents that room. The music rooms have sheet music, the acting room has a red curtain in front of the door. Some people just have way too much time on their hands. I peer in windows until I find what I'm looking for.

Sam is behind the door covered in newspaper. I walk into the room and am taken aback by the amount of people being busy there are. So this is what boring people do. Nobody even notices I walk in, and I fold my arms. They're missing out. Making my way over to where Sam is talking to Lauren, two people bump into me. Do they even look where they're going?

Sam seems to be lecturing Lauren on something. "You can't just make stuff up and say it's from an 'anonymous source' whenever you need to, you know."

Lauren rolls her eyes and adjusts her hoop earrings. "Whatever." Then, she spots me. "Anna! Hey girl!" 

"I need to talk to Sam," I say, and Lauren's eyes widen. "You did it?! You got her to help you? Oh my gosh!" Her fingers start to move furiously over her bejeweled phone, but her eyes dart between Sam and I. "Oh, yeah, I'll go."

"No, you don't." Sam glares at me as she catches Lauren's arm and pulls her back. "You told her?" she turns on me, keeping a hand on Lauren's sleeve. 

"She's the one that recommended you," I say innocently. 

Sam groans. "Both of you, with me."

As Sam drags her away, Lauren shouts at some guy, "Kelly, save me layout space! If I live through this I want page three!"

I follow Sam and her hostage down the hall to a little office with two desks and a round table. One half has newspapers taped to the wall, stuck to the whiteboard, and spilling over the desk onto the floor, and three empty coffee cups; one on the computer tower, one full of red pens, which are also scattered on the floor, and one on a filing cabinet. It's disgusting. The other half is Sam's half. It's neatly organized with multicolored highlighters and sticky notes. Her whiteboard is clean, with a cup of colorful markers on the ledge. Her papers are in neatly staggered stacks or in color coded binders lined up against the wall, and there's a basket of legal pads in a corner of her desk. She also has a little black cart with a tiny TV, playing muted static, and a row of assorted cameras and accessories behind locked glass on the back wall.

Sam pushes Lauren down into one of the plastic chairs at the round table, centered exactly along the equator of the room. Lauren crosses her legs daintily and takes a lemon drop from the bowl in the center. "Stay," she says. Lauren holds up her hands amusedly. Going behind her desk, she picks up the one scrap of newspaper on her desk, looks at it, and rolls her eyes, crumpling it up and shooting it into the trash can by the door. "Whatever that means," she mutters to herself. Then, she opens her filing cabinet, procures a complicated looking document, grabs a pen, and smacks them both down in front of Lauren. "Sign this," she commands.  

"Um, do you want me to come back?" I ask, getting impatient.

"If you want to talk to me, wait your turn," Sam tells me. "Take a seat, have a lemon drop."

I sigh and sit down, declining the lemon drop. I inspect my nails as Lauren argues with Sam about the document.

"You want me to sign this thing saying that I won't tell anyone about the thing with you, Anna, and Kimi?"

"Exactly."

"Why?"

"First of all, none of your business, second, because you'll ruin everything that's none of your business." Sam sits on the table and puts her boots on the chair next to Lauren. 

Lauren stretches and leans back in her chair. "Freedom of speech and freedom of press. First amendment, baby. I can say and print whatever I want."

"Sure, just not about Kimi, me and Anna after you sign this," Sam counters evenly.

"Maybe I want a lawyer."

Sam rolls her eyes. "This is just a press agreement, you don't need a lawyer."

"Okay, fine, but what's in it for me?" Lauren looks at her like she's just won something.

"Um, not having your lack of informational sources will be a very convincing segment on my show next week?"

"You're threatening me?" Lauren's jaw drops so hard her curls bounce. "You wouldn't."

Sam raises her eyebrows and points to the document. I've gotta admit, she is pretty good at this stuff. But of course, that's why she's working for me.

"Sheesh, fine." Lauren signs her name, big and loopy, along the bottom of the paper and dates it. "There you go."

"Thank you, now scram," Sam says, hopping off the table and sliding the document back into her filing cabinet and locking it. "And don't say a word!" she shouts just before the door closes. 

I clear my throat and she turns to me. "Yes, Anna, what do you want?"

"Oh, nothing, just wanted to check in... See how it's coming," I say easily. 

Sam isn't convinced. She takes off the red and black flannel she's wearing over a sleeveless t-shirt and drapes it over the back of her chair. "Okay, now what do you really want?"

I sigh. "I just want to know the plan. You do have a plan, right?"

Sam rolls her eyes again and sits down at her desk. "Yes, Anna, I have a plan," she says, like I'm some kind of burden. I frown, but I know if I get angry she'll just throw me out, so I keep up the nice act.

"Well?" I say, gesturing her to continue. "Go on."

"Well, it depends," Sam says, putting her arms on top of her desk and scooting in. "Do you want the credit for being the one to destroy Kimi?"

That's a stupid question. "Well, duh. I'm the one doing it. You're just helping me."

"Um..." Sam looks at me funny. She thinks for a second, rubbing her mouth, and nods. I feel like I'm missing something, and I cross my arms. "Okay, good. Then I'll just tell you what you should do, and you can do it and get all the credit and be my documentary subject."

"Yeah, I know. That's always been the plan." Duh. How thick can you be? She looks satisfied, but I'm definitely not. "But what am I going to be doing? How am I going to destroy Kimi?"

Sam is quiet for a second, then nods. "Okay, it's pretty simple. I'm going to tell you some things, and you're going to tell them to Kimi, and then she's going to kill her own reputation."

I wrinkle my nose. "What kind of a plan is that?"

"Hey, do you want my help or not?" Sam asks. "Because I'm not keeping you here."

God, I hate this girl. "Fine," I say. "Just tell me what to do first."

 

-[-~-]-

 

Of course Sam would humiliate me in this way. Making me apologize, please. Kimi should be the one apologizing to me! But sometimes, you have to suffer for revenge, I suppose, and Sam says it's crucial to the plan. If Kimi had just left my affairs well enough alone this wouldn't even be a problem! But no, here I am, in my car, suffering through the squalor of Kimi's neighborhood. 

She lives in the one close to the middle of town, with the little one story houses all squished together that are half-plastic, half-brick and have Christmas lights up all year because people are too lazy to take them down. Tacky. The only people that live here are the poor families with little kids that actually care about food prices and gas mileage. 

Kimi's house is easy to find because it's the most overflowing of all of them. A backyard of grungy toys, droopy flowers, and dog shit, a garage so overflowing with crap there isn't room for the minivan, kids everywhere. It's like a germ factory of snot and kid filth. There's no room in their driveway, so I have to park in the street, where some crazy parent will inevitably get distracted by the useless clumps of their DNA in the backseat and crash into it.

I delicately remove myself from my car and gritting my teeth, start walking towards the front porch. There is a small army of kids playing in the front yard, and judging by how many of them are Asian-looking, half of them must not even be part of the Ayers family. They all stop whatever they're doing to stare at me as I pass, though. One little boy actually drops his hula hoop. Freaks. 

I get up their porch safely, which is a miracle because of the spilled gallon of slippery bubble solution and wands, and ring the doorbell quickly to avoid needless contact with the grimy, yellowing button. Kimi's mother answers the door, in bare feet and an apron, and looks surprised. She opens the screen door as I force a smile. "Anna," she says. "Come in, come in." 

The house is hot and smells like a Chinese restaurant. There's a monstrous pile of shoes by the door, and to my left, another horde of children giggle as they watch some cutesy animated thing on TV with high pitched voices and squealy music. 

"Kimi is downstairs doing homework," her mother says, rushing back to the kitchen as something starts to sizzle loudly. "Make yourself at home!"

I step carefully onto the beige carpet stained with greyish patches, and descend the rickety stairs into the cold, damp basement. It's finished, but pitifully, just a small hallway, a bathroom, and a few extra bedrooms encased in drywall and cheap carpet. Nothing has been done about the basement smell, and I wrinkle my nose. I find Kimi's room at the end of the hall, door open, and step inside. 

It's much neater than the rest of the house. The closet is closed, the floor is picked up, and her pale green bed is made. The curtains on the window above her desk are open to reveal a leaf plastered hunk of corrugated metal. Kimi is sitting at her desk, her hair braided back loosely, and glasses on top of her head.

"Hi Kimi," I say, and she startles, nearly falling off her chair as she whirls around.

"Um, hi, Anna," she replies, looking very cautious. 

"I'm sorry for what happened yesterday," I say. I'm not sorry, though. She should be sorry. Who's she going to take away from me next? My photo editor? Pill supplier? Rumor spreaders? She's so selfish, taking my help. She probably just wants Wyatt so he can do him and get better grades than me.

"You are?" she says. "You seemed pretty mad..."

I nod. "Yeah. I miss you, Kim. Let's make up."

She looks conflicted, but I try to look pitiful and she agrees. "Okay," she says. "Friends?"

I burst out a grin. "Friends!" I say back. "Just don't do it again."

She nods. "Never." Dirty liar. "Do you want to stay for dinner? It's 'embrace our Japanese heritage for once in our lives' night," she says, doing air quotes with her fingers. 

"I would, but I can't," I lie. Like I'm eating anything in this filthy house. "I have plans, better get going." 

She looks disappointed. "Oh. Okay. I'll see you tomorrow?" 

"Uh huh. Bye!" I say, walking out. 

I get out of the house as quickly as I can and speed away. When I get home, the maid is drawing me the biggest bubble bath ever.

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