As much as she loved her fellow bandmates, and would do literally anything for them, sometimes they were just.

Too much.

They all had their own thing that, on occasion, would almost make Laney boil over. Kin would sacrifice the safety of himself and his friends if he had the chance of testing out a new, over-the-top invention. He also requested two dollars a day from her to fund these ridiculous inventions a few years ago. She signed a contract with him and she's really not entirely sure why. There was nothing in it for her. Every single day for the past three years, she has shoved two crumpled up one dollar bills into his hands because if she didn't, legally, Kin could sue her. His brother, Kon, would inhale various types of cheeses at intense speeds, nearly choking. Then, when she'd eventually have to do the Heimlich maneuver on him or he would die, he would just go back to doing what he was doing before. And Corey. Dumb, cute Corey, who would never, ever listen to her when she was trying to explain to him that his long and convoluted plan won't work, and when it didn't work, he still wouldn't listen to her suggestions. Sure, there was the rare "wow Laney, I guess you were right" but it didn't happen as much as she wanted it to. Being the "mom friend" to three high energy thirteen year old boys is hard.

Today was one of those days where Laney almost lost her cool at the boys. Corey had signed them up for a whole three hour performance block at Peaceville mall's food court the next day, which irritated her beyond belief. How are they going to get enough lyrics for three hours of material in less than a day? One entry from Trina's diary only had enough content for a minute or two of music. Also, three hours? Seems , of course, brought this problem up to Corey, but he disregarded it, going on about how the teen scene of Peaceville will know Grojband's name. Or at least middle-aged mothers and their children who drug them around. Kin said that he would start building something that could clone Trina for multiple diary worthy freak outs at the same time, but mentioned that it may split apart the fabric of space and time, or something like that. Not only was the band in danger, the whole universe was this time! Kon was, well, being Kon, going on about some sort of private access chocolate fountain. When all three forces of teenage boy energy stacked on top of each other, Laney could feel herself grow more and more aggravated.

"Can you three just listen to me for one minute?" She wanted to yell at them, but the words couldn't come out. She knows the routine. It's been the same routine since the band started. It usually worked out in the end, so what was the point of arguing with them? Well, there was lots of points. Corey could make a plans that didn't have forty different steps to them. Kin didn't have to make a life-threatening invention to solve their problems. Kon didn't have to spit out random non sequiturs every five minutes. Laney knew that stepping in wasn't going to stop anything. Instead of making her usual complaints, she sat on the stage, obviously very annoyed.

For some odd reason, the look of irritation seemed to speak louder than protests. Corey stopped rambling about how he got Kate and Allie to build a merchandise stand for tomorrow's gig, expecting Laney to object his plans more. "Hey, Lanes? Ya good?" Obviously not. She had her brows furrowed and her arms crossed, but she nodded and forced a smile onto her face.

"Just peachy, Core. I'm just a little under the weather. Light headed. Throat is sore. Fever-y. Do you think you could fill me in on the plan via text?" Laney let out a fake cough. She needed to leave the garage before she exploded. After all this time, Trina's outbursts started to make a little bit of sense to her. Maybe she should apologize to her one day. "I wouldn't be much help right now anyways." At least she was being honest about not being helpful. Corey gasped and jumped onto the stage next to her, grabbing her shoulders and turning her to face him. He put his hand on her forehead, causing her to flinch a bit.

"You're sick? You never get sick! You do look a little flushed. And you're warm. You should go home and get some rest. Or go get some tea. Take care of yourself like how you take care of us!" Corey let out such a genuine, soft smile and she suddenly felt weak. Laney, you're supposed to be angry at him, not flustered! She scolded herself for falling into the blue-haired boy's unintentional trap. Stupid, stupid stupid! "We probably can convince Mall Barney to push our performance block back a few days!" Kin and Kon made their way over to Corey and Laney.

"That is if the gig doesn't get stolen by the Newmans." Kin made sure that the rival's band name was incredibly over emphasized. "That's always a possibility!" He shuddered at the thought of getting a three hour gig taken out of the band's hands. Kon put his hands to his face, expressing true terror.

"Well of course they are going to steal it! The Newmans always steal our gigs! Mall Barney promised we'd get to run around the mall after hours if we played at the food court! He just opened a new chocolate store, and I heard that theres a ten foot chocolate fountain that's invite only! AND WE WERE INVITED IF WE PLAYED!" Kon grabbed Kin by the arms and shook him. "WHY ON EARTH WOULD THE NEWMANS PASS UP THE OPPORTUNITY FOR AN EXCLUSIVE TEN FOOT TALL CHOCOLATE FOUNTAIN?!" Laney was finding it extremely hard to not be annoyed with the volume of the large boy's voice.

"Kon, if you don't stop yelling, I will drop kick you into the next town over." She exhaled. "And don't worry, it won't be bad if I can get some rest. No need to cancel the gig." Laney might be incredibly irritated with the situation, but she wouldn't purposely try to ruin a gig. She knows they can pull off this cloning Trina nonsense without her. "Go build your cloning machine or whatever it is your planning. Try to stir up some lyrics, or at least some of them, okay? I'm gonna take a nap. Text me with the plan when you get things set in stone." Without saying anything else, she fled the garage, not responding to the boys' questions. After awhile, faint drumming could be heard, letting the her know that she wasn't going to be chased down.

Sure, Laney was lying about being sick so she could leave practice earlier. Sometimes, a mother hen needs to take a little time for herself. She is convinced that the boys are responsible for the several grey hairs that she has. She's only thirteen and they have single-handily aged her up physically ten years. They were the best people she knew, but right now she needed to be as far away as possible from them or she might actually start on fire. Going to take a nap was also a lie. Honestly, she was probably going to head to the mall and spend fifty dollars to blow off some steam. Maybe she'll buy a new jacket or something. Who knows?

Her walk home wasn't that long, given that she lived right next door to Corey. She took the key from under the doormat and struggled to unlock the door. After several painful seconds of fighting with a door, Laney made it into her house. She grabbed her wallet off the counter in the kitchen, quickly checking to see if she had money in the first place. She considered wearing a hat or something that'd make her a little less identifiable, just in case a certain guitarist, drummer or keyboardist decided to go to the mall. Should I put my hair up? Should I change my clothes? Maybe she's overthinking this. It's just a trip to the mall, Laney. The boys aren't going to hate you forever if they find out that you ditched practice so you could get away from them for a few hours. Right? Ending her argument with herself, she was off, looking forward to subjecting herself to retail therapy.

The mall wasn't that far away from the Penn house, so she decided against riding her bike. The extra time it'd take to walk could allow for her to breathe and maybe soothe her nerves. Why was she so angry? This happened every single time. Corey books them a gig that is seemingly impossible to pull off and makes a plan that has way too many steps when they could have taken a simpler approach. He also tends to get possessed by some evil power in the process. Kin makes a world-threatening invention that eventually ends up being relevant to the story at some point. Kon would most likely get hurt or eat something, like usual.

But what was different about this gig than the gigs in the past? Besides the whole "slight chance of tearing apart the fabrics space and time" thing, it didn't seem as unsafe as playing on a meteor that was hurling itself towards earth. Sure, it's annoying that this gig is three hours long compared to the usual gig that was one song and done, but she knew it'd be good publicity for the band. Maybe they could play some of the songs they've played in the at least have an hour worth of material from past performances. She should text them that.

hey guys, you do realize we COULD use songs we've already done this year right? that could shave off an hour of diary material. just sayin. She quickly typed into the Grojband group chat. It only took seconds for Corey to shut her down.

core :)) - but wouldn't that be kinda boring tho?

sure. but it'd be SMART. less cloning trina, less chances of tearing apart the universe.

thing 1 - She does have a point. More Trina clones, more scrambled atoms, more chances space and time imploding in on itself.

thing 2 - MORE CHANCES OF LOSING THE CHOCOLATE FOUNTAIN!

thing 1 - But Corey also has a point. It is lame.

core :)) - Grojband doesn't do "boring"

well maybe grojband should try it sometime. sometimes boring is nice.

core :)) - Sure, for people in their seventies. Lanes Im not about to have Grojband be boring. Thats not how I roll

core :)) - I dont know about you but Im not seventy and boring

are you saying that i'm old? wow dude super uncool

also it really doesn't matter if we replay some of our songs. it's not like everyone in peaceville has heard every single song we've done. it'd save us time. maybe the world. THE WORLD COREY. what's more important to you, being "boring" or us dying because the world ended?

thing 1 - *The universe.

shut up. same thing.

thing 2 - Are you guys seriously not taking into account a chocolate fountain is at stake? A CHOCOLATE FOUNTAIN YOU GUYS

Oh, that's right. That's why she's mad. Corey doesn't listen to her. Kin does listen, but also doesn't at the same time. Kon doesn't listen to anyone. Normally this wouldn't bother her her too bad, but right now she's absolutely sick of being ignored when she knows she's right. She knows that she can't stay mad at the three forever, they're basically family at this point, but that doesn't stop them from making her want to chuck her phone into the street.

Before she could text back, Laney felt herself collide with something, or rather someone. Of course. That just seems to be my luck, I guess. She backed up and brushed herself off. "Oh no, I'm so sorry! I wasn't looking where I was going and I was trying to…" She looked up to see the familiar face she ran into.

Carrie Beff.

Laney rolled her eyes immediately at the realization of who she just apologized to. "Oh, would you look at that. The Ewmans." She looked back at her phone to see six notifications from the "Grojchat." Aren't they all in the same room together? Whatever. Returning her attention to the group of girls (plus Lenny) who were in front of her. They weren't moving. "Are you going to block the sidewalk all day or are you gonna get out of the way?"

"Maybe you should learn to get off your phone when you're walking, Lamey Penn. Aren't you, like, supposed to be playing with your little Garbageband boys? Don't you have a gig tomorrow at Peaceville Mall?" Carrie tilted her head, smiling smugly at the redhead in front of her. Laney's eyes widened.

"Grojband doesn't own me, ya know. I'm an independent lady, and if I want leave practice early I can. If I need a break, I can take one. Wait—how do you know our practice schedule? If you hacked my email to find out my band's secrets, I will personally destroy you." She really didn't need this extra layer of negativity in her life right now.

"Why so angry, Penn? It was just a question. And no, I didn't hack anything, I just have a sister who spends way too much time with Corey's sister." Carrie let out an overdramatic gasp and leaned towards Laney. "You left practice EARLY?! What's wrong? Did you finally grasp that those Grojbland freaks aren't worth your time? ARE YOU QUITTING?"

Laney was going to lose it. She didn't need to be attacked with questions from the Newmans right now. "Quit Grojband? Are you stupid? I'd only quit Grojband if I was dead. I'm just going to the mall. Need to blow off some steam." Lenny glanced at her, somehow completely understanding what she's going through. "Now if you don't let me leave, I will break your arms. Try getting gigs when your arms are broken."

"Wow, despite him being stupid, Corey wasn't wrong. You are filled with rage. Chill out, Laney, out of all of Grojband, you're, like, the most tolerable. And that's saying something. How 'bout we come with you and you let out everything that's bothering you? We'll listen to everything you have to say. I'll even buy all of us lunch." As much she hated the idea of spending time with Carrie and her band, the idea of being listened to seemed appealing. Her thoughts were interrupted by her phone persistently buzzing in her hand. She turned the screen on to see twenty-two notifications from the group chat, then eleven notifications from just Corey.

core :)) - Lanes? Did you die?

core :)) - Laney

core :)) - Lanes you arent answering the group chat

core :)) - we have a plan now Laney look look look look

core :)) - Laney Penn please look at our group chat

core :)) - Laneylaneylaneylaneylaneylaneylaneylaneylaneylaneylaneylaneylaneylaney

core :)) - Im going to come over if you don't answer me

core :)) - Lanes are you ok do you need to talk

core :)) - Im sorry lets do your idea! Lets play our old songs! We can even do our duet!

core :)) - We should go over it though if were doing that

core :)) - Can I come over so we can practice? Are you feeling better

no and no. i'm trying to take a nap. let's meet early tomorrow morning, k?

She angrily typed into her phone, letting out a growl. She looked up to see a bunch of confused Newmans. "Sorry. It's just Corey being Corey." Carrie immediately snatched Laney's phone from her. "Hey!"

"Wow, this is what you put up with everyday? Is he, like, in love with you or something? This is embarrassing." Laney's face heated up with the comment and Carrie took notice right away. "Aw, that's hilarious! You like him! That's super unfortunate for you, you picked a bad one. Corey sucks. You're too cool for him, not gonna to lie. Good luck dealing with him, if you decide to pursue that." She kept scrolling up and reading her messages, all while laughing hysterically. "Dude. He's so into you. This is the funniest thing I've ever seen!"

"GIVE ME MY PHONE BACK! I wasn't lying about breaking your arms!" Laney jumped for her phone, but her height betrayed her when Carrie held it above her head. She shook her head.

"Not unless you agree to let us go to the mall with you! Oh, would you look at that, Riffin responded! It'd be a shame if I texted him back!" Laney panicked as soon as she saw Carrie start to type. "Dear…Corey…It's me…Laney…I love…you…soo much…" She glanced down at the redhead. "Do you want me to keep going?"

"FINE! You can come with me! I don't care, just give me back my phone!" Carrie smiled and pressed the button, bringing her to the home screen. She glanced at the wallpaper depicting the bassist and the aforementioned guitarist that she was allegedly in love with taking a picture after a gig. It was a nice picture, at least Laney thought it was. This prompted a look from Carrie that wasn't appreciated. "Stop it. It's normal to have a just friend as your background."

"I didn't say anything! Now let's stop taking up sidewalk space and go already." Laney grabbed her phone back and read the text from Corey, all while walking in the direction of the mall.

core :)) - Awesome! Cant wait :) feel better soon Lanes! See you tomorrow!

But she couldn't help but notice that the confession that Carrie threatened her with was still typed up. She could just send it and get it over with. She shook her head and deleted it. Not the right time. I'm still mad at him. She was kicked out of her thoughts by the blonde next to her.

"Tell us what's up! We're friends now!" Konnie had a big smile on her face that made her almost feel welcome. Almost. Laney wasn't about to immediately open up to the people she despised the most. Maybe despise is a strong word. Lenny's kind of cool. Ever since the whole fusion ordeal, she learned that she and the Newman's bassist had a few things in common. Still, she didn't trust them.

"How do I know you won't use my feelings against me? Prove to me that I can trust you." Laney glanced at all four of them, suspicion in her eyes. Why did they care? Obviously they aren't being nice just to be nice. Are they going to get tomorrow's gig cancelled somehow? There's something fishy about them showing sudden interest.

"Come on, we might be rivals, but we wouldn't stoop that low. How would we even use your emotions to blackmail you or Grojband?" Kim looked at Laney with a small smile on her face. "We actually want to know what's bothering you! Us girls, and Lenny, have to stick together!" Lenny nodded along with Kim's comment. Laney exhaled. She was still unsure about sharing her life story with four people that she's supposed to hate.

"Uh, there's kind of a lot that's going on. I wouldn't even know where to start." Laney sighed and looked down at the ground as she walked. At least she wasn't lying to them. She could talk about why she's upset today, she could delve into the "being in love with Corey Riffin but he's so painfully oblivious and it probably won't happen because he's dumb and she should just get over it but she physically and mentally can't" thing, or she could go off on how weird this whole situation she was now in with them and how it freaked her out. "Sometimes, the boys are just…a lot, I guess. I don't know what you want me to say."

"Spill it, sister. What's their deal? Like, what irks you the most?" Carrie was now walking backwards so she could make direct eye contact with Laney. The most? Laney looked up at Carrie. It took her little time to respond.

"Well, I'm getting pretty sick of them not listening to me when I'm trying to make things easier. I don't know, sometimes it feels like I'm the only person with some type of common sense in that band. Corey has no concept of simplicity, Kin doesn't know what personal safety is and Kon is just purely disturbing fifty percent of the time. It's like it doesn't matter what I say. But then, when I don't say anything, somethings wrong. Like, what am I supposed to do? I literally didn't respond to our group chat for like, I don't know, three minutes, and they started freaking out that I wasn't texting them back. Am I supposedtoplay along with their ideas and not point out how it will inevitably fail?" As if on cue, Laney's phone buzzed. "Here we go again."

Before she could even unlock her phone, Carrie snatched her phone again. "Nope. Absolutely not. Nuh-uh. No speaking to Grojband while you're hanging out with us, 'kay? That's the one rule. Dumb boys can wait." Laney was going to protest, afraid that Carrie was going to look through her phone a second time, but felt relief as soon she put it in her bag. "Continue."

This was weird. They were all looking at her with pure concern. They weren't cutting her off. They were paying attention. It was making her nervous. The dynamic she had with the boys was normal to her. This was not normal.

"Uh… It's not like it's all the time! They actually can be pretty good at listening sometimes. It's just…I don't know. I tried explaining to them how we could make this gig we have tomorrow go by more smoothly by, ya know, playing songs we've already played instead of stea—writing three hours worth of music in a day, and Corey says that it's boring to play songs we've already done. And his plan for getting Tr—uh, so much material involves some sort of cloning machine, which Kin said it-"

"Can tear the fabric of space and time apart and doom us all?!" Kim gasped. "I might invent some dumb things on occasion, but never anything that'd make the universe implode! Sorry, sorry, please go on." She felt guilty after interrupting, but Laney didn't seem to mind. It actually made her feel a little more comfortable.

"Yes! Exactly that. And Kon doesn't pay attention anything, most of the time. It's like talking to a six year old. I love the guy like a brother, but it's true." Laney shrugged. "I don't know, I just love them all so much and hate to see them fail. Especially Corey. He doesn't fail that often, but when he does, he gets so sad and it's just…emotionally crushing." Carrie raised an eyebrow before turning back around.

"Speaking of crushing. What's up with you and Riffin? I can tell that's bothering you."

"Excuse me? Who said I had feelings for Core?" Laney's face reddened as she whipped her head to face Carrie. "I would never! We're best friends and that's it." The words hurt to say, but she wasn't wrong. They were just best friends.

"Don't play dumb, Penn, it's obvious. You have the boy as your wallpaper. You hate to see him fail. You're somehow putting up with him after he sends you a million texts in a row. Talk about it." Lenny looked visibly offended at this comment, but Carrie didn't seem to notice. Laney grumbled as she messed with a thread on the hem of her shirt.

"A best friend with only strictly platonic feelings can do all those things too, Carrie. Doesn't mean I'm in love with him. Let's drop it, okay?!" Laney shot a glare at Carrie, receiving a mildly hurt expression as a response. Why is she feeling guilty for making a Newman feel bad? "Sorry, it's a touchy subject."

"That's exactly why we want to hear about it! It's obviously causing you some sort of mental fatigue. I guess we can't force you to talk if you don't-"

"He's so obtuse! I know it's obvious, everyone else can see it but why can't he see it? I know I should just get over it and accept it probably won't ever happen, but I don't know how! We went on dates together! We even kissed, and he still has no clue!" It all seemed to boil over. Laney never gets to talk about this. She obviously can't tell Corey, that's stupid. Kin and Kon both would spill it to Corey, probably not on purpose, just because they can't keep a secret to save their lives. Who else could she tell besides Lenny? Who else was in her life that she could talk to about it? Trina? She can't even begin to imagine how that'd go. She'd probably freak out about stupid Corey having more of a love life than her and then Laney would probably get something sharp and dangerous thrown at her. Mina? Would Mina even react? She'd probably tell Trina, not because she wants to but probably because she legally has to, which would result in the same outcome as telling Trina herself. Maybe Mina would be really understanding and be an amazing person to talk to, Laney isn't sure because they don't really interact that often. Maybe she should talk to Mina more.

"Wait wait wait, you two kissed? When did that happen?" Lenny looked at Laney, shock in his face. The two have been ranting to each other almost everyday about their love problems ever since the "Fuse-It" situation, but this never came up in conversation. "That's great! Have you talked to him about the kiss? How was it?" He glanced at the three of his bandmates, who were very confused by his interest. "What? I'm invested now."

"Second New Years, it was on accident, but I literally think about it everyday! He seemed to enjoy it since he didn't pull away and he got weirdly nervous about it! He said 'wow!' But no, he hasn't mentioned it at all so I actually have no idea how he feels about it!" Laney threw her arms up into the air. "He's just so dense! I don't know what I'm supposed to do. Also being called guy and fella doesn't make me feel any better about the situation."

"Well, you could do lots of things! You could, I don't know, talk to him about what's upsetting you." Kim suggested. Laney started laughing, like she hasn't heard that one before.

"Or, hear me out, I don't do that! Do you think I haven't tried? It's hard!"

"How about we go get ice cream sometime?! Ice cream solves all problems! Especially love problems!" Konnie stopped walking for a moment and grabbed Laney by the shoulder, taking her into a big hug. Laney, reluctantly, hugged back. She's still incredibly uncomfortable with them being so nice to her. It just felt wrong, but it doesn't seem to be stopping, so she might as well give in.

"I might have to take you up on that offer." Laney smiled a little and resumed walking as soon as Konnie let out a happy squeal and stopped crushing her ribs. She was starting to wonder how much longer this walk to the mall was, because it was starting to feel incredibly long.

"Look, Laney, I know it's hard. Trust me, I completely understand." Lenny quickly glanced at Carrie before looking right at her. "But obviously this is really upsetting you more than it usually would. .Maybe you don't need to talk to him about about the whole crush thing, but you should at least bring up the fact you don't like being ignored all the time. You can't just bottle this sort of thing up. If you do, you're going to crack and no one's going to have a good time."

"Lenny's right, ya know. Sure, you can bottle up a crush, but anger's a lot more dangerous." Carrie put her hand on Laney's shoulder, offering support. "Talk to the boy! Tell him he's being stupid! Maybe if you cry in front of him, it'll add to the seriousness of the situation. He'd have to listen if you cried." Laney shook her head, appalled at the option given to her.

"There is no way I'd ever cry in front of Core willingly. Besides, it's not that serious." Laney was nervously messing with her fingers. "I don't know. I'm probably just overreacting to everything."

"Overreacting? If people weren't listening to me and taking into account how I felt, I'd be beyond upset! Here." She handed Laney her phone back. "Tell him you're going to come over later to talk about it. If you don't, I will, 'kay? You might be apart of the worst band known to man, but you still don't deserve to be disregarded. As much as I hate to admit it, you're probably the coolest person in Grojband." Carrie shuddered, her face painted with disgust. "Cool and Grojband should not be in the same sentence. Not the point. Text him."

Laney stared at her phone, preoccupied with the million thoughts in her head. Why are they trying to help? What is Carrie getting out of this? Maybe this whole thing isn't that big of a deal. I don't need to talk to Corey about it, it's stupid. He wouldn't understand why I'm upset. But they have a point. If I hold onto all this teenage angst, I might turn out like…Trina. Could you imagine? Ew. Fine. I'll do it. But NOT because Carrie said I should, I'm doing it because I think it's in my best interest. She slowly unlocked her phone and pulled up her messages. The notifications from the band group chat went from twenty-two to an astounding fifty-six. Can't those boys take a hint and realize that I'm not responding to them? She opened the chat to see the last few messages from them.

thing 1 - Kon, I'm pretty sure Laney isn't dead.

thing 2 - YOU HAVE NO PROOF TO BACK THAT UP

thing 1 - All she did was go home, I can't imagine something would have happened in that amount of time. UNLESS SOMETHING DID. OH NO

thing 1 - WHAT IF A MUTANT BEAR GOT HER? MAYOR MELLOW SAID THERE WERE FIVE MUTANT BEAR SIGHTINGS IN PEACEVILLE IN THE PAST TWO WEEKS!

thing 2 - LANEY ANSWER US PLS OMG

core :)) - Guys she's fine, she texted me earlier shes taking a nap. Let her sleep. jeez. The poor girl deserves it. Besides, she lives right next to me. No bears here.

thing 2 - BUT WHY WOULDNT SHE TELL THE ENTIRE GROUP SHE WAS TAKING A NAP

thing 1 - Kon has a point!

core :)) - Do you want me to send you a screenshot for proof?

hey guys sorry to ruin the moment but it's incredibly difficult to rest when you are blowing up my phone with fifty messages. i'm safe. last time i checked there wasn't a mutant bear anywhere near me. stop it. k, thnx

core :)) - See guys? Lanes is finnneee. Sorry laney

thing 1 - Thank Rocklympus you're alright! Keep your eye out for mutant bears though, for real. Apparently they've been seen to be up to 15 feet tall. Some have like six legs and two heads. Absolutely terrifying.

thing 2 - Sweet dreams!

you're all on thin ice.

She then opened up her separate conversation with Corey as every member of the rival band watched carefully over her shoulder. The uneasiness of the situation was setting in. She didn't want to yell at them to give her some space because what if she types the wrong thing? But she also desperately wanted space. She's going to let it go for now, but if this whole "invasion of privacy" thing keeps happening, she will tear out all of Carrie's hair. Maybe Lenny's too.

"What do I even say to him? 'Hey, we need to talk' seems WAY too ominous." Then she started to panic. Everything she thought about saying to him seemed sketchy. I need to talk to you. Hey, Corey, I'm incredibly angry about everything and it has to deal with you so I'm coming over to talk about it. Let's talk. This couldn't be worse.

"Just say you want to come over later! He won't overthink it." Kim shrugged. "At least, I don't think he would. Would he?" Laney let out a painful exhale. She's right. No he wouldn't. He never overthinks anything, unless it's a way to lyrics out of Trina. Here goes nothing, I guess.

hey core, could i maybe come over in like, idk, a few hours? i need to rant lol

core :)) - Well of course! Youre welcome over anytime :) You looked like you needed to talk about something practice, I'll go get us ice cream in an hour or so if you want some!

you're too sweet. haha thanks, that'd be awesome!

Laney couldn't help but smile at her phone. How could she stay mad at him when he did things like that? Her anger seemed to wash away at the simple promise of having ice cream with her best friend while she got to talk his ear off.

"Hello? Earth to Laney?" Konnie waved her hands in front of Laney's face. "I thought you were mad. You don't look mad." The bassist snapped out of her thoughts, her happy expression quickly turning into confusion.

"Huh? Oh. I don't know, I just can't stay mad at the kid. I try to, trust me, but he always redeems himself. I hate it."

"Dude, you are too into him, it's sooo embarrassing." Carrie teased, messing up Laney's hair. "Now let's pick up the pace and get to the mall already!"

"You're the one who kept bothering me in the first place! I'd be there already if you didn't invade my privacy!" Laney spat, fixing her recently ruffled hair as she ran after the four who were in front of her.

"Laney, look at this one!" Konnie came running towards her, holding a black faux leather jacket. "IT HAS A CAT ON THE BACK!" She flipped it around to show the head of an orange cartoon cat with the words 'check meow-t!' in bright red under it. "They only have it in a large and I don't think you're a large BUT LOOK AT IT! Isn't it cute?!"

"Super cute!" Laney smiled at the blonde drummer. It took her a bit of pushing, but she's finally starting to warm up to the Newmans. It was weirdly nice to be one of the girls after spending years only hanging out with the Grojboys. However, it still feels off. It feels like she's breaking the law. It feels like she's cheating on a math test. But who told her she couldn't have other friends? Corey can't stop her from hanging out with other people. She's her own lady.

At this point, she wasn't really sure if she was going to actually buy anything anymore, but sometimes it's fun to just look. She wasn't really mad anymore, but the anxiety about meeting Corey later was starting to set in. Trying to distract herself from her impending doom, she found an olive green jacket. There were various patches sewn onto the sleeves and chest. It was the perfect amount of edge for Laney. Taking a glance at the price tag, she silently cheered when she realized it was twenty dollars under budget. Thank you, clearance! She slipped it over her usual attire. "Is this the look?" She struck an over dramatic pose for the band who stood next to her.

"I think it's mandatory by law for you to get that right now. That jacket practically screamsyou!" Carrie smiled. "Hey, you can even wear it at your gig tomorrow!" She does have a point. It does have a "playing music at the mall's food court" sort of vibe. Laney couldn't help but worry about the Newmans giving her compliments. What if they are trying to sabotage her by saying she looks good in the jacket when she doesn't? You're overthinking this, Laney. It's just a jacket. They wouldn't be that cruel, right? You're being stupid.

After a solid ten minutes of trying to convince her to buy it, they won her over. Konnie ended up buying the cat jacket because if she "couldn't live with herself if she didn't buy it." The group started walking towards the food court, with Lenny trailing behind, stuck carrying his band's bags. Laney, who was carrying her own bag, felt satisfied with her purchase, and was having such a good time that she almost forgot about the fact she had promised to rant to Corey later. Almost. Even the slightest thought of her future encounter with Corey made her nerves start to show on her face and her new group of friends took notice almost immediately. Carrie stepped in front of her, causing a very distracted Laney to drop her bag and crash directly into her.

"Ow! What was that for?" Laney brushed herself off and grabbed the bag off the ground, narrowing her eyes at the frontwoman in front of her.

"You're thinking about meeting up with him again. Stop it." Out of this whole 'befriending the Newmans' situation, the thing that stuck out to her the most was how painfully observant Carrie was. From all Laney's conversations over text with Lenny, she had just assumed she would be as dense as Corey when it came to being emotionally intuitive, but over this past hour, Carrie has single handily figured out the effect that Corey had on her, what get's on her nerves, and how she expresses her emotions. Lenny seems to be as shocked and confused by this as she was, due to the fact that he is usually in the presence of agonizing obliviousness. "It's not that big of a deal. Here. Pretend I'm Corey, 'kay?" Carrie stuffed some of her hair into her beanie and promptly lowered her voice. "Hey, Laney!How are you doing?" Do I actually play along with this? Laney sighed, giving into the pressure to rehearse this with her.

"I'm fine—"

"No you're not. Try again. Hey, Laney! How are you doing?"

"…Awful." It took her awhile to choke out. She's so used to telling him she's good when she isn't. She doesn't like this exercise.

"Aww, why's that?" Carrie tilted her head. Laney had to admit, she was doing a pretty decent job of imitating Corey. Not like it was hard or anything. "…This is the part where you tell him what's bothering you."

"Oh. Oh! Right, right, uh…" Laney looked at her hands. "I don't remember what I was upset about."

"Stop stalling."

"I'm not!"

"You didn't forget why you're upset. This has been bothering you forever, right? Now, let's try that again. Aww, why's that?"

"I-I…I don't know."

"She's bombing this." Kim looked at Carrie with concern. "Is this really worth it? It might not even help her."

"COME ON LANEY! YOU CAN DO IT!" Konnie jumped up and down a little, acting as Laney's personal cheerleader. "TELL COREY HE'S BEING STUPID!"

"It's gonna suck. You just have to do it." Lenny finally dropped his friend's bags onto the ground, so he could make eye contact with her. "Rip it off like a band-aid."

"I can't think of a single way to say it without sounding mean. Corey, why don't you or the twins ever take into consideration my ideas? Corey, stop talking over me. Corey, I'm mad that you don't listen to me. What am I supposed to say? I don't want to sound rude."

"That! Just say you're mad that he doesn't listen to you!" Carrie almost shouted at her, but instantly remembered that she was currently Pretend-Corey. She cleared her throat and lowered the pitch of her voice once again. "I-I mean, what do you mean I don't listen to you?"

"It's…uh…" Laney looked at them, all of their eyes sparkling with moral support. Konnie was clapping her hands lightly with excitement. "Well, sometimes, you tend to get a little, uh, wrapped up in your plans and whatnot and I offer a common sense solution and you are so enveloped in your idea that you shut everything I say out." She shut her eyes in fear. Laney, calm down. You're talking to Pretend-Corey, not Reality-Corey. She opened one of her eyes to see Carrie giving her a mild amount of applause.

"That's it! Maybe run that through your head a few times and learn how to speak with purpose and you'll be good to go!" Carrie smiled and fixed her hair. "We're taking up space again. Let's go find a table. Like I said, lunch is on me!"