Isabel woke up the next morning feeling happier than she had felt in a long time. Maybe even since before Max had shaken up their world by telling humans about their secret.
She stretched lazily and yawned loudly. Only then did she decide to get up.
It was Sunday morning, so that meant both of her parents were around. Diane Evans was making breakfast while Philip was reading the paper and drinking coffee. Max was also at the table.
"Hi," Isabel said cheerfully before taking a seat beside her brother.
"'Morning," her father said, lowering the paper to look at her.
"You sound cheerful this morning," her mom observed.
"Why shouldn't I be? It's a lovely Sunday morning. The sun is shining, the birds are singing," Isabel said.
Everyone put down what they were doing and turned to stare at her. "What?" Isabel demanded self-consciously.
"You're just very . . . chipper today," her mother said.
"You're never chipper," Max said. "Isabel and chipper don't go together in the same sentence."
Isabel stuck her tongue out at her brother. "Maybe I just got out on the right side of the bed this morning." She saw her parents exchange a meaningful glance, but didn't understand why. She didn't feel like trying to figure out what it meant, either.
Instead she got up and helped her mom made breakfast.
* * *
Isabel made her way into Club Monaco. She was shopping with her friends. Much to her surprise, they weren't getting on her nerves as much as usual today. It must be because of her mood.
Lynn picked up a shirt. Isabel looked at it. The colouring was all wrong for Lynn. "So not you," Isabel said, but in a nice way. She liked Lynn. She was one of the nicer of Isabel's friends.
Isabel went through the rack and pulled out a shirt similar in style that better suited Lynn. "Try this," she said.
"Thanks," Lynn said, taking the shirt. She looked suspiciously at Isabel, but Isabel didn't notice. She had already waltzed off to look at another rack. Lynn shrugged and went into a change room.
While she was in there, Stacey approached Isabel. "We're going," she announced.
Isabel looked around. "Lynn's still trying something on," she said.
"So?" Stacey asked, uncaring. "I'm sick of this store."
"If you'll just wait five minutes," Isabel said angrily. Stacey got on her nerves, even when she was in a good mood.
"I don't wait for anyone," Stacey said hautily. "Especially not someone like Lynn." There were a bunch of agreements. Although Lynn was one of the nicer of Isabel's clique, she was also one of the less popular. And Stacey was one of the leaders. No one else there today was going to stand up for Lynn.
After saying that, Stacey left, fully expecting everyone to follow her. She was mostly right; everyone left but Isabel. Muttering a few choice words under her breath, Isabel went back to the change rooms just as Lynn was getting out.
Lynn looked around and saw that the others had left. Her lips tightened, but she didn't say anything. Neither did Isabel.
"Are you going to get it?" Isabel asked.
Lynn looked at the shirt in surprise. "Yeah, I am."
Isabel and Lynn went to the counter and Lynn paid for the shirt with her debit card.
"I have a sudden urge for ice cream," Isabel said. "Do you want some ice cream?"
"Sure," Lynn said, clearly surprised. Isabel was acting different today.
So that's how Lynn and Isabel found themselves standing in front of Baskin Robbins chatting and laughing over chocolate ice cream. The chocolate ice cream was another surprise for Lynn. She couldn't remember Isabel ever ordering such a mundane flavour as chocolate.
"So," Lynn asked finally. "Who's the guy."
Isabel stopped licking her ice cream cone and regarded her friend. "Guy?" she asked, truly confused.
"There's no guy," Isabel said.
"Sure," Lynn said sarcastically, rolling her eyes.
"No, seriously," Isabel said. "Why would you think there was a guy?"
Lynn grinned. "You've been on cloud nine all day," she said. "You've been dancing about like there could be nothing wrong in the world. The only time I've seen a person act like that is when she's just starting to go out with a guy who she thinks is great."
"Well, this time you're wrong. There's no guy," Isabel said, warily. She finished her ice cream and got up. "Ready?"
Lynn quickly ate the rest of her ice cream. "Ready," she said.
They had started to walk away when Isabel heard someone call her name. She turned around to see who it was.
"Max, Michael," she said in surprise. She brother and friend quickly hurried to catch up with her. "What're you guys doing here?"
"We're going to see a movie," Max explained. He looked at Lynn and raised an eyebrow. Isabel caught his meaning.
"This is Lynn. You remember Lynn, don't you?"
"Yeah," Max said, lying. Isabel knew he could never remember any of her so called friends.
"Lynn, you know my brother, Max, and Michael."
"Yeah," Lynn said. She smiled sweetly and Isabel realized that she was flirting. She smiled to herself, knowing how hopeless the endeavor was. Max was head over heels in love with Liz and Isabel had never seen him so much as look at another girl in that way.
"Michael," Isabel said.
"Hmm?" he asked, lifting his head up and looking confused. Isabel realized that he had been daydreaming.
"Are you alright?" she asked, frowning.
"Sure," he said dismissively. However, he refused to meet her eyes. Isabel frowned again.
"So do you want to see a movie?" Lynn asked brightly.
Isabel started and realized that she had completely tuned out the conversation Lynn and Max had been having. She glanced at her brother and saw his panicked eyes. Then, just to bug him, she smiled, "Sure, a movie sounds great."
Max glared at her. Lynn missed the exchange. Michael did too, but that was because he was staring off in the distance again. Isabel was worried about him. She wondered what was wrong.
The four of them headed for the theatre. Max ended up paying for all the tickets. He grumbled about it, but not as loudly or as much as he would have if Lynn wasn't there.
When they took their seats, Lynn made sure she got the one right next to Max. Normally Isabel would have been amused, but she didn't notice. She was too upset to notice. Upset at the fact that Michael purposely picked the furthest possible seat away from her.
Isabel was sure that no one actually saw much of the movie. Lynn spent the entire time flirting with Max. Max alternated between panicking and trying to ignore Lynn's advances and sending death rays at Isabel. Isabel kept on sneaking glances at Michael, trying to figure out what was wrong. Michael just stared blankly into space the whole movie.
When they got out of the movie, Max looked at his watch. "I'm supposed to meet Liz in twenty minutes," he informed them. "I have to get going."
"I also have to get going," Lynn said. "I told my mom I'd be home by three at the latest." It was now four.
They left and Michael and Isabel were alone.
"Okay, what was that about," Isabel asked, her anger barely controlled.
"What?" Michael asked dully.
"That whole ignoring me bit," Isabel told him.
"I wasn't ignoring you."
"Yes, you were." Isabel's voice was sharp and it was quite a bit louder than she wanted. She looked around the mall self-consciously. "This is not the best place to have this conversation. C'mon."
She didn't give him a chance to protest before she pulled him out of the mall and to her car. Isabel knew her parents were home so she drove to Michael's house instead. Neither of them said a word until they entered his apartment.
"Okay, now, talk," Isabel ordered.
Michael didn't look at her. "About what?" he asked.
"About what's bothering you and why you refuse to look at me," Isabel told him.
"Nothing's bothering me," he said.
"Don't try to pull that bullshit with me," Isabel said. "I've known you my whole life; I know you better than that."
"If you know me so well, why don't you tell me what's bothering me." Michael's eyes flashed.
"Stop it!" Isabel yelled, distressed. "What's going on with you? Last night you were acting so sweet and nice and today you act like you're disgusted to share the same breathing space as me."
"Don't you see everything's changed?" Michael shouted.
"No, I don't see that," Isabel shouted back.
"Well, it has," Michael said softly. He sunk down into the couch, defeated. "Everything's changed. How do you expect me to treat you the same way as I did before when things have changed between us."
Isabel sat down beside him. "Nothing's changed between us," she said.
Michael gave a short, harsh laugh. "Yeah," he said. "right."
"It's true," Isabel insisted. "I feel the same way about you as I always did. Only now you know. And you said you've always had feelings for me. Only now I know."
"That's the point," Michael said. "Now we know. Now we're going out, or are together, or something like that. I don't know how to treat you anymore."
"Treat me like you always did," Isabel told him.
"Like a stuck up princess?" Michael joked.
Isabel glared at him and hit him.
"Hey," he protested. Then he grew serious. "I can't just go on acting the same way I always do around you. I'm afraid if everyone sees us acting this way and dating they'll think there's been something go on between us for a long time. I know that will hurt Maria. And I don't want to hurt Maria."
Isabel felt a little hurt when he said that. Even though she knew he loved her, she was scared he might have feelings for Maria.
Michael seemed to read her mind. He smiled reassuringly and squeezed her hand gently. "Don't worry, I could never feel the same way about Maria as I do about you. But she's a nice girl and our friend. I don't want to hurt her."
Isabel had an idea. "We don't have to tell anyone. Not yet, at least."
Michael looked at her, unsure. Isabel continued on. "I mean, I'm not sure I'm ready to tell them yet either. It would be better to break it to them gently." She looked up and flashed him a dazzling smile. "Besides, I'd rather have you all to myself for awhile."
Finally Michael answered. "I think that's a good idea. It gives us some time to think about it, to adjust."
"So it's settled then," Isabel said, suddenly all business again. "We don't tell them." She stood up. "I have to get going now."
Michael got up to and planted a kiss on her cheek. "See ya," he said.
"Bye," Isabel smiled. Her earlier feeling of elation had returned and Isabel had the feeling nothing could take it away again.