For me, shopping with Alex is both a humbling and a terrifying experience. She can find beautiful clothes in the dullest of shops and turn anyone into a princess. But that is what scares me. She pushes me to try new things and experiment, something that is not in my nature, particularly when it comes to clothes. Alex uses clothes to show off who she is. I use clothes to hide behind.
'How about this?' Alex said, holding up a scarlet coloured dress.
'Why not? You would look great in this. Just try it, please.'
'No!' I insisted.
'Pretty please.' Alex batted her eyelashes at me, smiling that smile she uses to get her own way.
'OK, I'll try it if it will keep you happy.'
Alex knew exactly what to say and do to make me agree to whatever she wanted. It was part of her charm but it could also be annoying. She had everything she could possibly want; a gorgeous boyfriend, good grades, status as the most popular girl in school. I wanted a bit of that.
'Well come on then,' Alex said grabbing my hand. 'Let's go see what you look like.' She half dragged me into a changing room and threw the clothes she had picked in after me. 'Make sure you show me before taking them off,' she said before closing the curtain.
The red dress was staring at me tauntingly from the top of the pile as if it were saying you can't possibly wear me. So I snatched it from its hanger and put it on.
'I can't possibly wear this,' I stated as I threw open the curtain of the dressing room.
'Why not? You look gorgeous!'
'For a start, I don't wear red, and secondly, have you seen how short I am? Dresses only make my legs look shorter.'
'That's a lie! And your legs definitely won't look short in these.'
My eyes almost fell out of my head when Alex held out a pair of black suede high heels.
'Are you trying to kill me?' I said, unable to take my eyes off the six inch heel. 'I'll break my neck in those!'
'Just try them,' Alex said, pulling her puppy dog face again.
'You are going to be the death of me,' I said, taking the shoes from her and awkwardly putting them on. I found, much to my annoyance, when I looked in the mirror that Alex was right. I looked good in the dress and the heels. 'But I can't wear something like this to school, I'd be killed by the teachers.'
'You don't have to wear it to school. There are other occasions where you can wear pretty dresses, like Homecoming.'
'Alex don't start on that again.'
'I'm not going to give up Ness, you are coming with me to Homecoming. The Prom Queen needs her faithful friend by her side.'
'No one is going to ask me and I am not going without a date.'
Right on que my phone rang and I gratefully answered it, turning my back on my reflection.
'Hey sexy what are you up to?'
'Luke stop it,' I replied sharply, 'it's not funny.'
'Sorry,' he laughed. 'You know how much I enjoy winding you up. So what are you doing? I'm bored out of my mind here and was thinking of you, me, a massive tub of Ben and Jerry's finest and a Lord of the Rings marathon.'
'Luke I told you I'm out with Alex and I'm staying at hers tonight.'
'But you spend all your time with Alex,' Luke said and for the first time I heard genuine annoyance in his voice. 'We haven't had a night in with a movie for months. What's happened? I thought we were friends.'
'Of course we are,' I insisted, 'but I'm Alex's friend too.'
'Well it feels like Alex is your only friend at the moment because I hardly speak to you anymore.'
'Is everything alright Nessie?' Alex asked, her face concerned.
'She's listening isn't she.' Luke said. 'I knew it.'
'I don't want to hear it. When you decide you want to have me as your friend again let me know. Just don't expect me to hang around waiting for you.' And with that he hung up.
'Who was that?' Alex asked as I turned to face her.
'Just a friend.'
'That Luke guy? The one who had detention with us earlier?'
'What did he want?'
'He was asking if I wanted to go round his place tonight but I told him I was spending time with you.'
'And he didn't like that?'
'No. He says I'm not spending enough time with him and he doesn't see me anymore.'
'Sounds like he's really into you.'
'What?' I asked, my face scrunching up into my questioning expression.
'Maybe Luke can take you to Homecoming.'
'No, he's just a friend, that's all. He's never seen me like that and probably never will.'
'OK, I'm sorry, I overstepped the line,' Alex said apologetically. 'It was just a thought. Now try on the next outfit, I want to see how it looks.'
I was ushered back into the changing room and the curtain was closed on me once again. But as I got changed out of the red dress and into a purple jumper and black skirt my mind began to wander.
Luke had always been a good friend to me, but what Alex had said had made me begin to question myself. In some moments, when Luke and I had been larking around, I'd wanted him to make a move, but it had never happened. Did I still want that?
I shook the thought out of my head, putting on a smile and stepping out of the changing room, ready to play my part.
'How do I look?'