Disclaimer: I dont own animorphs.

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The
Onlooker

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Chapter 1: The Cafeteria

Hey, my name is Jamie. I'm just your normal girl in a normal world. At home I'm the bratty little sister. At school I'm always 'in' with all the cool stuff that goes on. I'd like to think I'm special, you know, someone of real importance. Like Dante on the basketball team, the guy who's gonna be the next Michael Jordan, or Cassie, the nature-freak whose going to get an award one of these days for saving the wildlife. Me? I have no passion, no talent for sports. I don't even have good grades.

I'm a people watcher. I watch down inside, I'm a person more like Brittany, the all-out drama queen who thinks she's as special as Rachael from Friends, but will eventually amount to nothing in life.

But that doesn't bug me. It never has.

So now that you know there is nothing special about me, you will know that there was nothing special about the day in the cafeteria, when my little gang of school friends and I, along with Allison and Brittany, discovered that Cassie was going out with Jake.

Cassie. With Jake.

Ok, so I'm usually never one to butt into other people's business, really, the who's dating who crap gets seriously annoying after awhile. But I'm not completely ignorant to what goes on in school either.

But Cassie? With Jake?

That was a shocker. Inside, though, I was cheering for Jake, he's not as shallow as most guys in this school. And it's not like I have anything against Cassie. They were a perfect couple, just one you wouldn't see in school. Does that make sense to anybody? I mean, they were both nice and sweet and all, but really, who knew? They never seemed to be hanging out before, you know, the friends before dating. Maybe once or twice I've seen them hang out at the mall, but that was with friends and stuff, not enough to start a relationship off of, or so I would think. For Cassie anyways, if she was one of those other slutty girls then I guess it would be understandable.

But, thinking back now I'm not sure that, Cassie dating Jake, was really what first sparked my interest in that group…

Ok, this is what happened that day. I walked into the cafeteria with Dan, one of the guys I hang out with in my group. Everything was the way it always was. Allison was sitting with her little posse. Jake was hanging out with his best friend-since-childhood, Marco. Cassie was with her best friend Rachael and a few other girls a couple seats down from Allison's group on the other side of cafeteria from Jake. Myself and Dan sat at a table with our own little gang in the middle of the cafeteria, in between the two groups. And it just so happened that we were at a distance where we could hear everything that went on that day.

Cassie and Rachael were involved in some discussion about being stranded in a desert, Allison and Brittany were just talking about boys, normal school jib-jab.

In the excessively noisy cafeteria, my group was quiet. Normally we too would be talking about homework, the dance, idiots in class, and all the works. But that day we were silent. Joey, one of Dan's better friends, almost a better friend then me, just got suspended that morning by the assistant principal, Mr. Chapman. And it was our fault. He took the blame for a prank idea that Dan and came up with, something really stupid to piss off the teachers, and he got caught.

So we decided to eat in silence as a form of respect for our friend. Dan was picking at his food, as though he felt guilty for eating it when his friend wasn't there. Stephen and Josh were both working on some paper for our English assignment, and Megan was staring off into space with the faintest hint of a grin on her face, she was probably daydreaming about the dance that evening.

I was staring at my plate of cafeteria mush. I hated the food they served at school. Their pizza always tasted like cardboard ad the mashed potatoes were like paste to my mouth. And sometimes I wasn't surprised to find some kind of foreign object in there as well. I shuddered. The thought made me loose my appetite.

So I decided to attend to my other duty. People watching.

I pushed the plate away and rested my elbows on the table, head in hands, and scanned the area around me. Kids were laughing, slapping each other on the back, throwing food. Nothing kept my attention.

So I closed my eyes and listened to the pieces of conversation around me. It was pretty easy to guess who was saying what. Life at school doesn't exactly change much.

"So I said to my friend that-"

"Did you see her outfit today? Honestly, I have no idea where that girl-"

"-was on the news, a bunch of animals escaped from the zoo-"

"-wearing this cool dress I just bought at the mall, Tommy told me that it looked wonderful when I tried it on-"

"well my dad said that it was just a bunch of prankster kids dressed up in costumes-"

"I saw a real alien the other day at the-"

"-just got grounded from-"

"-should ask him to the dance" came a voice, loud and clear from my left.

Allison.

Who's the whore into now, I vaguely wondered

"Do it, Jake has gotten so cute," encouraged her stupid side-kick, Brittany.

"I know, I think I will" Allison agreed.

Then came another, louder voice, addressing the two girls.

"Hey, Allison. Hey, listen up," the voice belonged to Rachael, Cassie's best friend.

You know, I will never understand why that girl is her friend. I mean, there's Cassie, the nice, quiet farm-girl, a lover of all creatures, whose best friend is a snotty, beautiful supermodel wannabe in need of a serious attitude adjustment. I mean, what was this? A reality TV show?

"Uh-uh," I heard Rachael say, "Don't even think about it. Jakes with Cassie."

Cassie? And Jake? When did that happen? I lifted my head from my arms to look over at the girls.

Allison and Brittany, apparently, were a little skeptical as well. They were looking Cassie over, to see if she was 'worthy' enough for Jake.

"It doesn't look like Cassie and Jake are together. He's sitting over there. She's here. There, here. Waaaaayyy over there, as opposed to right here."

She had a point, if they really were together, they would be sitting together. Jake didn't seem like the kind of guy that would ignore his girlfriend and sit on the other side of the room.

But then, it wasn't my business how Jake treats his girlfriends, no matter who they are.

I sighed and shook my head. Megan seemed to have risen out of her stupor, she too was listening in on Allison's conversation.

Suddenly Rachael stood up.

"Allison, Brittany, we, Cassie and I, are going over there. Waaayyy over there." she said, the promptly left her table, dragging Cassie with her before she had a chance to protest.

I grinned mentally. Yes Rachael was definitely in need of an attitude adjustment, though sometimes I can't say I don't like her style. Besides, there had to be something good about her, I mean, Cassie was here best friend after all.

They walked away from Allison and Brittany, towards Jake and Marco. But first they had to pass our table.

"-hurl." Rachael was saying to Cassie, "Jake can face death everyday, but he can't manage to ask a girl to a dance. And you're no better-"

Ok. That was slightly weird. Jake can face death everyday? Riiight. What was that supposed to mean?

I looked at Megan. She just shrugged and went back to her daydream.

My curiosity got the better of me, unfortunately. I got up from the table, intending to throw away my food in the trash can that 'happened' to be near Jake and Marco's table.

I walked slowly and watched as Rachael and Cassie immediately sat down and began to talk to the two boys. Well, Rachael talked anyways, Jake choked on his macaroni.

Still…I frowned. Since when were they all such good friends anyways? I mean yeah they were cousins and all, and Jake did seem to like Cassie, but they never hung out before.

I reached the trash can in time to hear Marco purposely make a miserable attempt in getting Rachael to go to the dance with him. He was a cute kid, that Marco. Short, but cute.

Rachael replied to his attempt with an overly sarcastic Remark.

I sighed inwardly as I emptied my plate. I somehow remember saying that I wasn't the type to butt into other people's business, yet here I was eavesdropping on my average peers trying to hear…what? What was I listening for? What was it about the way Rachael said "facing death everyday" that caught my attention? I was a people watcher. I liked watching people hanging out at the mall. I liked watching kids at school do their thing. These four were just normal kids. They were doing their thing that kids like me do, laughing and joking about the dance. What was I trying to hear then anyways? Jeez I needed to take a chill pill, break away from my curiosity.

I had turned away from the trash can and started to walk back to my table, when I heard it,

"We could use a night doing something nice and normal." said Jake. Nice and normal? What do they do during free time, sky-diving?

"Oh, man," I heard Marco moan.

"What?"

"Every time we try to do something nice and normal it ends up turning out nasty and weird. Every single time."

The bell signaling lunch was over rang not too long afterwards. The rest of the day proceeded as normal. After school my friends and I went over to Joey's house, to hang out some before the dance. Joe wasn't there, so we let ourselves in and made ourselves at home. Joey never minded, his parents were never home anyways.

We began to talk. First about how we owed Joey and praised his actions, in a gang like mine, the not so tough but wannabe tough gang, we thought and act of courage was like, a sacred act. It was part of our code.

At one point, Dan looked at me, with guilt in his eyes, he still felt like it was all his fault because the prank was his idea. I never even bothered telling him it wasn't his fault, I figured it would be a waste of time.

So I returned his look with a guilty one of my own. Not guilt for Joey, but guilt for not feeling guilty for Joey. It was his own fault he got caught.

Next we talked about the dance, did anybody wanna go? In group activities like this we either went with everybody together or nobody at all. Josh and Stephen didn't care, Megan wanted to go, Dan thought it would be fun to sneak in Joey. So it was up to me.

I said yes.

Dan said we'd go. Unless Joey said he didn't want to.

I rolled my eyes. So much for democracy.

We talked about other stuff, what our next gag on the school would be, when we'd do it, where. All of it council style. I always had some pride in my friends, that we were all able to get along so well. But I knew that it was because nobody really cared. We were just a bunch of kids pretending to be more important than we really were.

Finally we went on to normal conversation. Megan brought up the discussion from the cafeteria.

"Did you guys see Rachael today? Man she totally showed Allison."

Stephen rolled his eyes, "Girls. Always making a fit about everything."

Megan threw a pillow at him. "What would you know Mr. I'm never gonna date a girl for the rest of my life."

"Hey, there's only one girl out there for me, the rest can be trash for all I care." He stated proudly. Then winked at me. I turned away.

Megan laughed, "Yeah, the day that Jamie goes out with you will be the day that I go bald. Not happenin'."

Did I mention how well we all got along with each other?

"I dunno you guys, didn't they seem kind of weird to you today?" I asked

"What do you mean" Josh asked.

I shrugged. Megan filled in for me, "She means when Rachael was talking about Jake as if he was some kinda war-hero."

Josh and Stephen looked at me weirdly, "Uh, Jamie, Rachael's always says stuff like that nowadays." Stephen told me.

"I know, but, I mean, it sounded like she really meant it, like it was for real." I weakly defended myself.

"That entire group is weird," Josh said. "There was this one time, I overheard Drake and Woo talking and they were saying how they were trying to kick Marco out of the pool for some reason, and Marco got really pissed and had this really weird look in his eyes, like he was about to eat them or something. Then Jake came and told Marco, not Drake or Woo, to back off. Asked him to spare them or something like that."

"That is weird." Said Megan, "But I don't see what that has to do with snotty Rachael and her war theories."

Josh shrugged. Megan continued, "Could you even call them a group?" she asked, "They're like, never together and all."

"Rachael and Jake are cousins," I offered.

"I see them hang out at the mall every now and then," Stephen said.

"They probably just ran into each other or something. Sorry, but I just can't seen them all as one big happy group of friends. Jake and Cassie, maybe, but definitely not Marco and Rachael."

"Would you all please shut up already about them?" Dan butted in, "Who cares who's friends with who or who said what."

"It's called gossip Dan," I said, "it's what junior high kids do. Besides, I think we're really on to something here."

"I think you just want something to be going on here Jamie. Why are you always so interested in what Jake and Rachael do anyways?" he spat, "Look, Joey's back, we should get back to business."

Sure enough not two seconds later to front door opened. A tall guy with long blond hair tied into a ponytail stepped into the room.

"Hey Dan. Hey guys." He greeted as he stepped into the living room where we all were gathered.

"Hey," we said.

"Where were you my man?" Dan asked enthusiastically, "I was afraid I had to listen to these guys blabber forever man."

"Mr. Chapman sent me to this place called The Sharing. He said I'm going to have to go there everyday I'm over my suspension."

Stephen and Megan groaned. "Isn't that the Boy Scout place for all ages?" Stephen asked.

"And genders," Megan added.

"I feel for you man," Dan said sincerely. Stephen and Josh agreed.

Joey shrugged, "It's not so bad. You should try it sometime." He looked at me. And smiled.

I turned away. If there's one of my friends that I dislike more than Stephen, it's Joey. I told Megan once how much I didn't like him. She said I was jealous. I think she was right. Dan and Joey have been buds for their entire junior high career. Dan and I have been friends for our entire school career. Yet he acts like it was Joey and him, not me, that he's been friends with forever. I guess it was for that reason that at first, when Joey first started hanging out with us, I followed him everywhere. I constantly asked him questions, trying to find out any reason that he shouldn't be friends with Dan. There was none, and that was when I first decided that I didn't like him. Unfortunately, since I appeared to have so much interest in him, Joey thought, and still thinks that I have a crush on him or something. Yeah. Right.

Then it hit me. Was I jealous of Cassie and Jake? Was I jealous of the friendship that Jake and Marco shared? That Rachael and Cassie shared? Is that why I've been butting my nose into their business so much lately?

I shook my head. No, no, no. Why would I be jealous of them? It's like what Megan said, they didn't even seem to be real friends. I mean, they never hung out together did they? So how could they be friends?

But then, I knew I was just trying to fool myself. At the time, when I was standing there, emptying my plate into the trash can, I was watching them. The way they acted, talked. Not just then either. I've been watching that 'group' for quite awhile now. And it wasn't just that time that they seemed to stand out in my mind.

I was a people watcher. I watched people. And I knew that there is something deeper there.

The way there seems to be seriousness in their relationship with each other, and life. Like the pool incident Josh was talking about. Like Jake and Marco knew something Drake and Woo didn't. I just know it's there. Even in Marco, the cute, short, joking kid, had a serious side when it came to his friends.

How do I know this?

I've watched them, when they were with other kids, hanging out, talking with other friends at school. It just wasn't the same as when they were with each other. There's a different sort of respect, and sincerity, that other groups of friends didn't have.

Other groups of friends. Like mine.

I'm a people watcher. I watch people. I know. There is something else there. Something I don't have.