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“This is ridiculous. Absolutely ridiculous.”
“Then why’d you agree to it? Please turn.” I grabbed Derek by the shoulders and turned him to his left, seeing as how he refused to move on his own.
“You realize that you’re embarrassing me?” he muttered as I straightened out his hair.
“I don’t see why you’re so embarrassed. I’m the one who has to be seen with you,” I teased.
“You’re the one who talked me into this!” he gestured to his vampire costume, then tugged at the strings holding his cape on.
“Wait, where’s your teeth?”
“I don’t know!” he shouted, his voice echoing through the mall. Five in the AM, right after opening, and we had to be here just to advertise a pizza parlor all day.
I glanced around the gigantic, empty building. “That was cool,” I whispered.
“What was?” he growled.
“ECHO!” I yelled, my voice fluttering through the mall. He jumped at the sudden outcry.
“Would you stop that!?” he hissed. “The guards are gonna come kick us out!”
“For what, disturbing their slumber?”
“Just give me the frickin’ teeth.”
“Fine, fine.” I pulled the baggie they sat in out of my jacket’s pocket and handed them to him. As he stuck them in, I gave him an overly wide grin. “Don’t forget to smile!” I commanded.
“I won’t!” he replied with mock enthusiasm.
I stood back and looked him up and down. “There’s just one thing missing…” I turned to the giant garbage bag that held the cape, hair gel (to achieve the proper Transylvanian ‘do) and…
“A pizza box?” he arched an eyebrow, one of his pointy plastic fangs hanging over the side of his bottom lip.
I stuck the box that read “ALBERTO’S PIZZA PALACE” in his hands and gave myself buck teeth to hint to him about his own. “Yes, my uni-tooth Dracula, a pizza box.”
He tucked the other side of his lip beneath the other fang. “Idiotic piece of plastic…”
“Idiotic!?” I gasped, holding the tips of my fingers to my gaping mouth in dramatic shock.
“Do you prefer the word ‘dumbass’?”
I shot him a look. “Where did you hear that word?”
He stared blankly past me as he quoted ‘the Tell-Tale Heart’. “I heard all things in the heaven and in the earth. I heard many things in hell…”
I kicked him in the shin. “You stop that!” I was glad not to have kicked him very hard. “Quit cussing!” I demanded.
“Hell is an actual word!” he defended himself, kicking me back. Neither of us had enough strength to do each other any damage, thankfully.
I jumped back, anyway. “Stop saying it, you sadistic blood-sucker!” I laughed.
“No name-calling!” he shouted.
“No bossing people around!” I shouted back.
“You started it!”
“Well, I’m ending it!”
“Stop yelling!”
“But you’re yelling!”
“I’m allowed to yell, I’m the one in the retarded costume!”
“Don’t say that word, either!”
He slapped me in the back of the head. I slapped him back. We glared at each other, trying not to crack a smile, for about ten seconds before grinning at each other.
He laughed. “There’s no way you’re getting me to wear this costume all day, no matter how much you want your uncle’s business to pick up.”
“But the costume makes me look fat.” That was true, although not the main reason why I wanted him to wear it while I handed out flyers. I just didn’t want to be alone.
“Well the costume makes me look really, really dumb.” He snorted. “Am I allowed to say ‘dumb’?”
“You’re allowed,” I shrugged.
“I don’t get it. You wear costumes all the time. And if it’s for your uncle, why not take one for the team?” he raised an eyebrow at me again. “Or are you that concerned about your image?”
I rolled my eyes. “Yeah, you know how I am about that image of mine.” I spoke in sarcasm.
“Then why are you making me wear this crap?” he looked down at his clothes.
“You can leave anytime you want, you know. I don’t need you here, you know.”
“Oh, I know, you’re the invincible Veronica, you don’t need anyone. But why do you want me to do this?”
“I told you, the costume makes me look fat.”
“But why the costume!?”
“Because everyone’s crazy about vampires. It’s Twilight this, Twilight that… A vampire will catch more people attention, and make them think of Alberto’s, and make them want to eat my uncle’s pizza! If teenagers, people our age, start talking more about it, maybe it’ll drum up some business!”
Not that me and Derek couldn’t have talked about it, ourselves. It’s just that, well, we were really only friends with each other. We’d both moved here a few months ago, and, considering it was summer, we’d only met each other because we lived next door to one another.
“You have a bizarre train of thought…” he shook his head.
“Suck it up and start modeling, Edward,” I growled, getting behind him and pushing him towards the center of the mall.
Just as he finally got me to stop pushing, and started walking by himself, me trailing beside him with the garbage bag in hand, I felt someone tap me on the shoulder. We both turned to see a security guard.
“Listen, you two…”

*****

“I don’t believe this,” I hissed as our armed escort left us by the road right in front of the mall.
“Neither can I,” Derek muttered, shaking his head.
“Like we were doing anything wrong!”
“Exactly!” he said, mocking me, “It’s not like the law is made to keep people doing the right thing!”
“I don’t get that freakin’ law. What was it called, again?”
“Like I would remember?”
“Well, it’s poopy.” He gave me a look but I ignored it as I stared angrily in the distance. “Why should we get kicked out for- for free advertising? (Was that it?)”
I looked up at him. He shrugged.
“Anyway,” I continued, “I don’t see what’s so advertising about it. It’s not like we were getting in the way of a movie set or something!”
“We were walking around with a huge pizza box, the words ‘Alberto’s Pizza Palace’ taped in big letters on this…friggin’ cape…” he tugged on it, trying to pull it around to tear off the letters.
“What are you doing?” I demanded (loudly), crossing my arms.
“I don’t know!” he snapped, then growled to himself, “Never should’ve agreed to this nonsense…”
“Hey!” I shouted, ready to kick him feebly once more. “Thanks a freakin’ lot! Why did you come out here, if it’s such a pain in the butt!?”
“I don’t know!” he yelled, trying to untie the strings of the cape from around his neck. He wasn’t doing a very good job.
“Well, then, you shouldn’t have come!” He started to strangle himself with the strings of the cape and I slapped his hand down to his sides. “You’re gonna throttle yourself, you keep doing that,” I growled.
We stood there, him staring up at the sky so that I could untie the knot he made around his neck.
“I came because it seemed to mean a lot to you,” he said finally, almost unwillingly.
I glanced up at him with a glare. “What?” I demanded further explanation in a off-putting tone.
“I came because you seemed to really want my help. I didn’t want to leave you hanging.”
“I don’t need your help, you know.”
“Yeah, I know,” he snapped, “You’re the independent wonder-woman who can manage all by her lonesome.”
That struck a chord. I’d never been extremely talkative, but not many people seemed to even try to carry out a conversation with me. It made for some very lonely times in school, catching part of a conversation between a few girls about their boyfriends and how their social lives were going. My social life seemed to be non-existent, except for one sort-of friend who was, now that I’d moved, nothing but a face on my MySpace friends list. That’s why I tried not to depend too much on Derek; I didn’t want to be too clingy.
“No I’m not,” I mumbled, focusing intently on the strings. I fumbled with them a little more, even though they were untied now.
“Then why do you always tell me how you don’t need me? Are you just lying all the time?” He took the strings away, my façade over the strings completely see-through.
“Maybe,” I said defensively, stepping away as he wadded up the cape and shoved it in the garbage bag.
“Well, quit lying,” he stated. He didn’t say it accusingly, like he was angry at me. He said it as if he were solving an issue with a simple solution.
“Yeah…” I mumbled, staring at my feet.
“Hey, listen… You don’t have to, like, force me to do anything to help you, okay? Just ask, I’m there. Alright?”
I shrugged, not meeting his gaze.
“You’re my best friend. I…” he snorted at himself. “I f***ing love you, alright? So quit messing around, pretending I don’t.”
I kicked him in the shin, my face turning red. “Stop cussing! Geez!” I shouted, and we stared at each other, both our faces bright red. “I love you too!” I spat out at him.
We stared at each other a minute, him looking shocked/embarrassed, me looking angry/embarrassed.
“Can I please go change so we can stuff this costume back in your basement, where it belongs?” he said in a complaining tone.
“Yeah,” I said exasperatedly, picking up the garbage bag as we headed for the house.
As we walked silently, I thought about how the costume used to be my Dad’s. Him and my Mom had gone to a costume party at their friend’s when they were my age, and met each other there. Mom had told me her whole world had changed when they met. My face seemed to grow a little hotter.
“Here, I’ll carry the bag for you,” he said, taking it from me. That was a change.
“Thanks, Edward,” I said automatically.
“Shut up.”
Not everything would change.





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