Page 4


Then I remember.
Soon she will corner me and ask me to set her up with Brad, from math. Ugh. Who am I, Cupid?
Where the main hall intersects with the pathways to the math and science wings, Carley Lynch and her circle have the hallway blocked. They’re all in black and red uniforms, and a few squad members are actually taking notes as Carley speaks.
As I pass by, I notice a little Tigers mascot temporary tattoo high on Carley’s perfect right cheekbone. I imagine her staring in her mirror this morning before school, trying to get the tattoo just so, which makes me giggle to myself.
Carley sees my expression and her eyes narrow. She makes a show of scrutinizing my outfit, then proclaims, “Hey, loser, props on getting yourself into a semidecent outfit today. Did you buy it at Kmart?”
Clueless as to where my clothes come from or why Carley hates me so much, I feel a lump rise in my throat. Even though I have the benefit of knowing that I’ll grow more beautiful each day—and that Carley will never look better than she does right now—the comment stings. Just when I think I might lose it in front of the cheerleader cult, someone grabs my hand.
“Let’s go,” Jamie says softly before pulling me around the squad to my locker.
“I don’t get it,” I say quietly. Jamie shakes her head as she opens my locker door for me. I unload my book bag and take deep breaths in an effort to brush it off. While I do, Jamie leans against the locker next to mine, looking alarmingly like a hooker.
“Hey, Ma,” Jason Rodriguez says to Jamie as he passes. “Nice legs.”
“Thanks,” she says back with a twinkle in her eyes.
I look at my friend, thinking that I both admire her and worry about her, despite knowing how things will turn out. Jamie is effortlessly surfer-girl pretty, even though she’ll never hit the waves. Her chin-length dark blonde hair looks like she washed it in salt water and then let it dry in the warm sun, and her eyes are ocean green. She’s stick-model thin, tanned, and sporting bare legs under a very short skirt with no tights. In October.
Down the hall, Jason high-fives his friend; I don’t even want to know if it was about Jamie.
Jamie will always be that girl: the one boys love to flirt with—not date—and girls love to hate. And I will always be that girl’s only friend.
“How did it go at the doctor?” Jamie asks. “I can’t believe you fell again. You’re such a klutz.”
“Ha-ha,” I say sarcastically. “The doctor was fine. He didn’t ask much so I didn’t have to lie.”
“That’s good.”
“Yeah,” I say, retrieving my Spanish book. “How’s your day?”
“The worst!” Jamie begins as I slam my locker shut. “I got detention.”
“What for?”
“We had a History test and I didn’t study, so I gave Ryan Greene’s paper a tiny peek, and all of a sudden, Mr. Burgess was standing over me. Anyway, detention starts at the ungodly hour of seven in the morning, and I have to go for like two weeks. Doesn’t that seem a little unfair to you?”
Not waiting for me to respond, she continues. “I don’t even know where detention is. I guess I better figure that out before seven tomorrow.”
Jamie is quiet for a second, and then something pops into her brain.
“Hey!” she says, hitting me softly on the arm. “Why didn’t you warn me about Mr. Burgess? About getting caught? You had to see that one coming.”
“I guess I didn’t,” I say, shrugging. “It wasn’t in my note this morning. Sorry.”
“That’s okay,” Jamie says. “After tomorrow, I’ll no longer be a detention virgin.”
We laugh, but there’s a pit in my stomach. This won’t be the last time Jamie will see the inside of the detention hall. However, it will be the first time she’ll flirt with the detention hall monitor, Mr. Rice, and the beginning of a sordid affair that will end in his divorce and Jamie’s being sent to an all-girls’ camp this summer to learn the difference between right and wrong, with the help of poetry, pottery, and Jesus.
I shake it off and Jamie rattles on while we move toward Spanish. We’re nearly the same height today because I’m in high boots, but she walks taller, with confidence, and meets the eyes of passing students. I watch their shoes as they go by, imagining who might be wearing them.
White cross-trainers with laces and swoosh that exactly match the school’s crimson?
Too easy.
Adidas tennis shoes with athletic socks?
Male soccer player in the off-season (noticed the hairy legs).
Are those bedroom slippers? Come on.
Ooh, here come some cute red boots. They’re Western meets modern, and I want to borrow them. Who could it be? Maybe next year’s homecoming queen, Lisa Something? She’s trendy.
Unable to stand the suspense, I look up to find that I’m wrong. The girl in the boots is Hannah Wright. I can’t help but smile, because Hannah’s future is bright: in just a few years, she’ll be a country superstar.
Too bad I can’t tell her.
Back to my game, I see brown Converse All Stars coming toward me—actually head-on toward me—but before impact or identification, Jamie tugs me out of the way. We’ve made it to the Spanish corridor.
“Were you playing that stupid foot game again?” she asks, dropping my arm.
I shrug in response.
“Well, you should watch where you’re going. You almost got run down by that weirdo,” she says as we walk into Ms. Garcia’s classroom.
“What weirdo?” I ask, intrigued. This morning’s note mentioned nothing about a weirdo.
“That weird guy you were talking to during the fire drill. Jake. No, Jack. Lance? Whatever. You know, the guy who just moved here. He looked like he wanted to talk to you just now, but you were too busy looking at his feet. It doesn’t matter, because you shouldn’t be associating with weirdos. You’re already weird enough as is.”
Jamie turns and gives me a silly grin before the bell rings and ends our conversation.
When Ms. Garcia grabs a dry-erase marker and begins writing today’s class agenda, I lean over and whisper gently to my best friend.
“Jamie, you look pretty today.”
“Thanks, London,” she says with a soft smile before turning in her seat toward Anthony Olsen, who is very openly eyeballing her legs.
It wasn’t a dream: I wasn’t asleep.
Almost, but not quite.
There, in that space between resting and REM, the image slammed into my head like a freight train. Now I’m sitting up straight, blinking furiously as if that will make my eyes adjust more quickly, breathing heavily, and sweating even though the heater’s turned down low, as it will be every night for as long as I live here.
Like that gory photo in my Anatomy book that I’ll encounter in a few months and can’t stop thinking about already, the memory won’t go away.
I want to walk down the hall and crawl into bed with my mom.
Instead, I try to self-soothe.
I take at least five deep, calming breaths, maybe more. I identify every dark shape in the room as nonthreatening. Finally, I burrow back inside the still-warm cocoon between two oversized pillows that form an upside-down V at the top of my bed.