Lisa Burstein

This Be Where I Blog

FIRST TWO CHAPTERS OF PRETTY AMY

on April 24, 2012

So since both  Barnes and Noble.com and Amazon.com decided to have PRETTY AMY available for sale a FULL- TWO -WEEKS EARLY! I am celebrating by sharing the first two chapters of PRETTY AMY with you. Enjoy! ( I apologize about the formatting, it is directly from the E-Arc PDF :))

ONE

Unfortunately, I am only myself. I am only Amy Fleishman.

I am one of the legions of middle-class white girls who

search malls for jeans that make them look thinner, who

search drugstores for makeup to wear as a second skin, who

are as sexy and exotic as blueberry muffins.

I am a walking, talking True Life episode. Your highschool

guidance counselor’s wet dream, and one of the only

girls I know to get arrested on prom night.

When my mother dropped me off at Lila’s, rather than

running like hell the way I usually did, I sat next to her in our

minivan and waited for a speech. The speech mothers give to

their only daughters on nights when those daughters are all

dressed up and the mothers look all wistful and teary.

I assumed she was building up to it, was working through

exactly what she was going to say so it would be perfect. I

knew from TV that she must have practiced in the mirror, but

maybe, faced with having to say all those things to me, she’d

frozen up. I could understand that.

When I saw Lila peek out to see who was sitting in her

driveway, and then felt my phone vibrate with a text that I

knew must say, WTF R U DOIN?, I figured I had waited long

enough.

“So this is it…,” I said. My mother stared at Lila’s small,

birdshit-gray house and bit at what was left of her nails. After

I’d started hanging out with Lila and Cassie, my mother

gnawed at her nails the way a baby sucked her thumb. “…my

senior prom,” I continued.

Maybe she was overwhelmed. Her little girl was all grown

up. Her ugly duckling had finally become a swan.

“I don’t want to ruin this for you, so I’m choosing to hold

my tongue.”

My mother loved using old-time folksy sayings. Hold your

horses. The early bird catches the worm. The penis with two

holes puts out the fire faster.

All right, fine, I made up that last one.

She had been holding her tongue for a while now. When

yelling at me about my “degenerate” friends hadn’t helped,

she went for the semi-silent treatment.

Stupid me for trying to get her to talk.

“There’s something very wrong with this, Amy,” she said.

She meant that Lila’s boyfriend, Brian, had arranged a

date for me. My mother had never met this boy. I had never

met this boy. It may have seemed wrong to her, but I was used

to Lila bringing the boys. And, it was still my senior prom. It

was still my night, and she couldn’t even have a special, sappy

moment with me.

“I want to tell you to have a good time, to enjoy every

moment, to be safe, but I know you won’t listen anyway. I

know you’ll do what you want to do.”

She was talking to herself again.

My mother’s favorite hobbies were talking to herself

and bitching. Though I suppose those were hobbies for most

mothers, my mother honed them like skills. If bitching were

karate, my mother would be a black belt.

I looked down at my dress. It was strapless and light blue

to bring out my eyes, which weren’t blue, but raccoon gray,

and picked up whatever color I put next to them. The bodice

was tight and shiny, like what a superhero might wear, and the

skirt flared out and fell just below my knees. When my mother

had seen it hanging on the bathroom door earlier tonight,

she’d said it looked trampy, which made me even happier that

she hadn’t been there when I picked it out.

She also hadn’t been there when I got my shoes and clutch

purse dyed to match. Sure, she had given me money, but she

hadn’t been there. Not like I would have asked her to be there,

but she hadn’t offered, either.

“Thanks for the memories,” I said, opening the door.

Her only job tonight was to tell me I was beautiful, that I

was her beautiful baby girl all grown up, but she couldn’t even

do that.

“I can’t help the way I feel,” she said, like some self-helpbook

junkie. Well, not like one—she was one. For Chanukah

last year she had gotten me an itchy sweater and Chicken

Soup for the Daughter’s Soul. The inscription had read, FYI.

Seriously.

                                             

I found Lila sitting at her vanity, playing with her hair. She was

wearing a lilac dress and smelled of lilac perfume, like some

flower-variety Strawberry Shortcake doll. Her vanity was

really just an extra chair from the kitchen and a small desk

with a mirror propped up on it, but nonetheless the effect was

the same.

Lila saw me walk in but stayed seated. This was what

she did; she liked to force you to watch her for a moment, to

drink her in. And since I knew this, I hung in the doorway and

waited while she put on mascara.

As lame is it sounds, Lila was the kind of person who

danced through life on her tiptoes, a ballerina with woodland

animals holding up the train of her dress. And, as much as I

hated to admit it, I was one of those woodland animals.

“What were you doing out there?” she asked without

turning around. This was another game she liked to play—she

was busy and you were interrupting her.

“The usual. Ruining my life and ruining my mother’s in

the process.”

She swept a blush brush over her cheeks. She hadn’t

dipped it in anything, so I wasn’t sure if this was also part of

her act or if it was some beauty secret I was unaware of.

“What do you think?” she asked, standing with her hands

on the skirt of her dress, then twirling around slowly so I could

see her from every possible angle.

“You look great.”

Lila asked how she looked, in one way or another, at least

every twenty minutes. Sometimes I was supposed to say You

look great. Sometimes I was supposed to say You don’t look fat,

or I love your jeans, your hair, your shirt, you smell soooo good.

It was okay. I knew it was my payment for hanging out

with her.

Besides, I can’t really say anything about needing constant

reassurance. Just because I don’t get it from Lila doesn’t mean

I don’t need it. I’d taught my parrot, AJ, to say Pretty Amy,

among other things. And when I’d asked him how I looked

that night, he’d obliged as usual.

“You really mean it?” Lila asked.

“I love your dress,” I said, just like I was supposed to.

I guess when it came to Lila I was just like AJ, repeating

meaningless phrases.

“You need more eye shadow.” She pushed me down

into her seat. Once she got going it was hard to stop her, and

before I knew it, she had redone my whole face.

Rather than the soft, natural effect I’d had when I arrived,

after Lila was done I looked like I was ready to go up onstage.

Not the way people onstage look when they’re actually

onstage, but the way they look when you see them close up

before or afterward.

“Much better,” she said, stepping back to appraise

her work. I knew how I wanted to respond, but instead,

I responded how I usually did when it came to something I

didn’t agree with. I said nothing.

I wondered if she had done this on purpose, like some

bride/bridesmaid thing. Lila did act like a bride at a wedding

that never ended. She always had to be the most beautiful,

the most interesting, and in this case, the least likely to be

mistaken for a blind prostitute.

Cassie threw open the bedroom door and entered the

room looking like the photo on a slutty Halloween Devil

costume, all fire-engine red and skin and cleavage.

“Wow,” we both said. Well, really I said it, but I could see

Lila’s mouth open to make a word and stop in a perfect O. I’d

never seen Cassie in anything other than an oversize flannel

shirt and cargo pants. She usually dressed like a lumberjack—

it might have been part of the reason Lila put up with her.

That night, it was obvious that Cassie was far too

attractive to be as crabby as she was. Maybe that was why she

always tried so hard to hide it.

She lit a cigarette. “I know, I know,” she said, exhaling, “I

look like the lead singer of a Vegas lounge act. My brother

already told me.”

“Not at all,” Lila said, looking to me like a combination of

shocked and jealous.

I nodded in agreement. I was shocked and jealous. At

Brian’s house later, two boys would have two girls to choose

from. The way Cassie looked that night, she would be chosen

first. I would be the one who was left, as usual, but that is the

arithmetic that equals love in high school.

“Turn around,” Lila said, walking toward her and reaching

for her dress.

“Fuck off,” Cassie said, pushing her away. “You can see my

ass on the way out.”

Cassie pointed at me with the tip of her cigarette. “What

the hell did you do to her face?”

“How do you know I did it?” Lila asked.

“Because Amy thinks light blue is daring.”

I hated to hear it, even though she was right.

“Don’t listen to her,” Lila said, holding my face between her

hands and squeezing like a proud grandmother. “She wouldn’t

know beauty if it crawled up her butt and pitched a tent.”

“Well, I know what it looks like when something crawls

out,” Cassie said.

“Maybe it’s a little too much,” I said, looking over at Lila

with eyes that begged for tissues, water, turpentine.

“It is too much,” Cassie said.

Lila stood there with her hands on her hips, her nails

painted shiny silver, waiting for me to disagree. With Cassie on

my side, there was no way.

“Fine,” Lila said, throwing me a box of those blessed tissues.

“At least now when we show up at Brian’s, he won’t try

to be her pimp,” Cassie said, putting out her cigarette and

walking downstairs.

Cassie started her rusted gold Civic, took off her red heels,

and threw them over her shoulder. One of them barely missed

my face.

“Hey, be careful.” I was sitting in the back, as usual. I

picked up the shoes from where they had landed and placed

them next to each other on the seat, so it looked like there

had been someone standing there who had suddenly vanished.

“What do you want from me? I can’t drive in those

things,” she said, lighting another cigarette.

Cassie, Lila, and I smoked a lot. We were proficient at

leaning against things—walls and cars and fences—and we

liked to lean against them and smoke. Like we’d seen James

Dean doing in posters for movies we didn’t know the names

of. When we couldn’t lean against things and smoke, we just

smoked.

Lila lit her own cigarette and threw one to me in the

back. “You can’t drive, period,” she said to Cassie, pulling the

rearview mirror toward her so she could put on more lipstick.

Cassie glared at her and moved the mirror back.

“I’ll tell you if there’s anything coming up behind you,”

Lila said.

“If I believed you could actually take your eyes off

yourself for two seconds, I’d feel a little safer.”

“Then Amy can do it,” Lila said.

I just smiled. There was no way I was going to ride turned

around with my knees on the seat, clutching the back window

like some panting dog. Well, at least not while I was wearing a

dress.

“Isn’t this great?” Lila said, watching her reflection in the

window. “The three of us together for the most memorable

night of our lives.” It was as if she wanted to see herself saying

it, and then compare it with the way other girls had said it on

nights like this.

I knew exactly what she meant, though. There was some

kind of magic that resulted from being dressed up and young

and headed for a night you were supposed to remember

forever. I was about to try to put that incredible feeling into

words when Cassie said, “This song sucks. Shut the fuck up

and put in a new CD.”

Not quite what I would have said, but this was Cassie we

were talking about.

“There’s no way I’m getting my hands dirty searching

around the floor for your CD case. Why don’t you have an

iPod like the rest of the world?” Lila asked.

“Why don’t you have a car?” Cassie retorted.

“Amy,” Lila demanded. And, since I knew I wouldn’t be

able to get away with saying no twice, I rooted around on

the floor, using only the very tips of my finger and thumb to

pick up what I found. I didn’t find a CD case. I found a lot of

sticky change, a glass pipe, and about twenty empty packs of

cigarettes.

Cassie turned around. “It’s not there. My fucking brother.”

That was the way Cassie referred to the members of her

family. They were all her fucking something. Actually, that’s

the way Cassie referred to everybody.

“Who cares?” Lila said, rolling down her window. She was

not about to let Cassie ruin any part of this night for her.

The car screeched as we turned off Lila’s street,

Macadamia Drive, a name that made it seem exotic somehow,

but really it was just one of the streets named after nuts on the

other side of Main.

Lila pulled her cigarette out of her mouth and checked to

make sure there was a ring of lipstick around the filter. Things

like that made her happy.

“Don’t worry,” Cassie said, “they can see your lips from space.”

We sat in Brian’s driveway arguing. Well, Lila and Cassie were

arguing about whether we should walk to the door together or

Lila should go on her own.

“I’m not sitting in the car like someone’s mother,” Cassie

said, turning to me and gesturing for her shoes.

“But they don’t know you yet,” Lila said. “It’s probably

better if I go alone and bring them out.”

“I don’t care either way,” I said, but the truth was, I kind

of liked the idea of waiting in the car. There was no point in

giving my date the opportunity to back out by letting him

have a look at me first.

“Good, then let’s go.” Cassie slammed the door behind

her and clomped up the walk.

She rang the doorbell and we waited. Waited for Brian to

swing open the door and smile at us like a game-show host,

telling us we looked stunning and introducing Cassie and me

to our bachelors for the evening.

But the door stayed closed.

“I’ll do it,” Lila said, pushing her way through, her

reasoning for Brian’s absence apparently the fact that Cassie

didn’t know how to ring a doorbell. “They’re probably in the

basement doing bong hits.” She rang the bell over and over so

it made the impatient sound of a car alarm.

“Where are they?” Cassie asked.

“They have to be here,” Lila said, as much to herself as to us.

“Maybe we’re on Punk’d or something,” I said.

“That show is only for famous people, stupid,” Cassie said.

“Well, maybe we’re on a new show that we don’t know

about yet,” I tried.

Cassie smirked. “Did you tell them the right night?”

Brian did attend a rival high school. It was possible he

had been misinformed of the date of our prom. Even though

I knew it was a crock, I attempted to hold onto this like a

drowning person grabbing for an outstretched hand, because

I was drowning.

I was.

Lila ignored Cassie and stuck her face to the sidelight

window. She banged on the door like she was locked on the

inside of it.

“There’s obviously no one home,” Cassie said, in a tone

that suggested she was talking as much about Lila’s behavior

as she was about Brian’s empty house.

I couldn’t breathe. I felt like I had been punched in the

throat. This was supposed to be the night where my date

would realize that he couldn’t live without me, that he would

love me forever. But that date didn’t exist.

“I’m going to look around back,” Lila said, walking away

in what appeared to be an attempt to shut Cassie up; this

rarely worked.

“She’s so fucking clueless,” Cassie said, plopping down on

the grass. She pulled out a handful of blades and burned them

with her lighter. “Maybe he’ll come home if I burn his house

down.”

I nodded. Not that I wanted her to burn his house down,

but a small grass fire might attract some attention.

“This is so typical,” she said, lighting a cigarette. “I didn’t

even want to go. Fucking Lila.”

“We don’t know they’re not coming,” I said. I wasn’t ready

to let myself believe that this was going to be my memory of

prom night for the rest of my life.

“Well, maybe we don’t,” she said, taking a long drag, “but I do.”

I stared at my nails. I had painted them in the same light

blue as my dress. I thought about how the nail polish was still

sitting on my nightstand, how when I got home I would scrub

my nails raw and throw it away.

We looked up, startled by a crash that came from the back

of the house.

Cassie shook her head. “You should never climb a trellis

in heels.”

“You think Lila’s breaking in?”

She grabbed another handful of grass and lit it up. “You

know what would be classic?” she asked, smiling like she was

trying to keep a bird from flying out from behind her teeth.

“She finds him in there with some other girl.” She watched

me for a moment, gauging my reaction. “Don’t tell me that

wouldn’t make you happy.”

It would have, so I didn’t.

Lila came around the side of the house. “No one’s there,”

she said, as if that were news. “I did find this, though.” She

threw a gallon Ziploc bag of pot on the ground in front of us.

“Holy shit,” Cassie said. “This is better than a stupid dance

any day.” She held it up.

I knew Brian was a dealer, but I guess I didn’t know what

that really meant. This was what that really meant.

“I’ve been stood up for my prom, in case you haven’t

noticed,” Lila said.

“You’re the one who took it,” Cassie said, opening the bag

and smelling it.

“Not for us; to piss off Brian. How can this be happening

to me?”

“It’s happening to all of us.” I wasn’t about to let Lila take

all the pain for herself, even though this was probably the

first time she had ever experienced what I had felt so many

times before—the pinprick pop and subsequent deflation of

rejection.

“But he was my boyfriend,” Lila said.

I had to give her that. At least I hadn’t had sex with the boy

who was dumping me. Though it did concern me that my date

was rejecting me even with the knowledge that I might have.

“What are we supposed to do now?” Lila asked in a voice

that seemed like someone yelling to the heavens after hitting

her last straw.

“I have an idea,” Cassie said, shaking the bag.

I didn’t care what we did as long as it didn’t involve going

home to my mother.

“How pathetic. My best prospects for dates are you two,”

Lila said, a tear running down the side of her face, shiny and

fat like a worm. “I can’t believe Brian would do this to me.”

Lila looked like a wilted flower in the center of the lawn.

“Shut the fuck up about Brian; it’s over,” Cassie said.

“Let’s go party.”

“I’m too upset,” Lila said, not moving.

I shrugged. Cassie could try, but I doubted we were going

anywhere without Lila.

Cassie harrumphed and walked over to the front stoop.

She pulled her dress up and her underpants down.

“What the hell are you doing?” Lila asked.

“Leaving him a present,” Cassie said as she peed all over

the evening edition of the Collinsville News. “Now we can go

have some fun.”

TWO

Maybe Cassie meant to drive by our school, but maybe

she just couldn’t avoid it. Collinsville is dissected by four

major streets. Collinsville South High was positioned at the

intersection of two of the major-est.

“Duck,” Cassie said as we drove by. The pot smoke was

thick in the car. I didn’t think anyone could see us—not that

anyone was looking, anyway.

Even though I was supposed to be ducking, I couldn’t

help watching the limos lined up like a trail of ants marching

from the street to the school driveway. Kids from our class

were streaming out in cake-frosting-colored dresses and

black tuxes; girls were hugging, boys were fist-bumping, and

everyone was taking pictures with their phones.

I was hiding in a car smoking pot.

I wasn’t nearly as excited about having it as Cassie was,

but I kept smoking. I’d only had pot a few times. Usually at

parties, when other people were around to see me. I’d have

just a small hit or two to look like I belonged there.

But that night, I inhaled and coughed, inhaled and

coughed, until my lungs burned. I probably should have been

scared to smoke that much, but I needed to be annihilated. I

had to forget tomorrow, when I would wake up in one of the

three hotel rooms we’d rented, alone in that big bed, my dress

crumpled up on the floor like a discarded attempt at a love

letter.

“Maybe Brian is there already,” Lila said. It seemed

unlikely, but no less unlikely than being stood up for prom,

no less unlikely than driving by our school in Cassie’s car

pretending we didn’t want to be there.

“He’s not,” Cassie said.

“He could be,” Lila said. “Let me text him again.”

Maybe our dates were already inside. I let myself believe

it. Let stupid hope take over.

“We’re wasted. I’m not going in there,” Cassie said.

Lila looked at me in the side mirror. I’d seen that look

before. It was time for me to observe and obey.

“Then drop us off,” she said, still looking at me.

“Yeah, drop us off,” I said, feeling stupid as I said it,

knowing I was reciting just like AJ.

Cassie huffed. “Ten minutes,” she said. “And you owe me.”

She met my eye in the rearview mirror. “Both of you.”

I knew that look, too.

We parked a few blocks away and went in the back

entrance of the school—the door we’d sneak into after we’d

ditch out during lunch. We couldn’t arrive, just the three of

us, in front of everyone. It would be as bad as walking up all

alone.

It was strange being there after hours; the hallways empty,

overhead lights on, music coming from the gym. It smelled

different, like dust and ammonia. The things you couldn’t

smell when the halls were filled with people. I was so messed

up that the gray lockers lining the hallway made me think of

intestines, so messed up that the fact made more sense than it

ever had. Like intestines, the hallways at school could dissolve

you into a nameless, faceless drone. Unless you made yourself

different.

We walked past the cafeteria, the nurse’s office, the

janitor’s closet, and the boys’ bathroom, our heels slapping the

floor like horses’ hooves.

“Let’s have a smoke first,” Cassie said, pushing open the

girls’ bathroom door.

“What if they

are waiting inside for us?” Lila asked.

“They made us wait,” Cassie said. “Now they can wait.”

“Amy?” Lila asked.

“I could have a smoke.” I shrugged.

Smoking with my girls was something I was used to. I was

not used to being stood up. I was not used to entering my

prom through the back door of my high school, so no one else

would know that I had been stood up.

If having a smoke for five minutes allowed me to stop

thinking about that, then yes, I wanted a smoke.

“Fine,” Lila said as we followed Cassie inside.

Smoking at school was definitely against the rules, but

I guess I felt like what had happened to me was, too. Some

cardinal prom law had been broken. That had to balance out

anything I needed to do to pretend otherwise, even getting

so high that my head felt like one of the shiny balloons that

probably covered the gymnasium ceiling like bubble wrap.

Our shoes echoed as we walked into the bathroom and all

the way back to the last stall. We stood around the toilet as

Cassie took a cigarette from her small red purse and lit it.

“I’m so fucked up,” Cassie said. She wobbled in her heels

and started to laugh. Her laughter bounced off the sea-green

tile walls.

“Just try to keep it together till we get inside,” Lila said,

grabbing the cigarette from her, taking a drag, and then

passing it to me.

I started to laugh, too. It was funny crowding into a

bathroom stall in our fancy shoes and fancy dresses and fancy

hairstyles; like sophisticated city women at a cocktail party—

with a toilet.

“Great, now you got Amy going.” Lila snickered.

“Shh,” I said, trying to keep the giggles from escaping.

They were starting to simmer up, like my lips were the hole

in a volcano model that was ready to blow. I put my hand

over my mouth. Just because we were breaking the rules so

deliberately didn’t mean I wanted to get caught.

Getting in trouble—in our fancy shoes and fancy dresses

and fancy hairstyles—seemed like another cardinal prom law

that wasn’t supposed to be broken.

“I think if they’re not here yet,” Cassie said, taking a quick

drag, “we should stay. We should stay and we should dance.

This buzz is too good to waste in my car.”

You want to dance?” Lila laughed.

“Sure, why not?” Cassie said.

I couldn’t keep the giggles in anymore. Cassie dancing?

I pictured her as Frankenstein—big and green, lurching to

techno in her slutty red dress.

“What?” Cassie said.

“I didn’t know you liked dancing,” Lila said, looking at me

like she knew exactly what I was picturing, trying so hard to

keep her mouth from curling up into a smile.

I let out one of those laughs when you’re trying not to and

it sounds like you’re spitting all over yourself.

“Shut up,” Cassie said, pushing me, but not in a mean way

or the way she sometimes did to remind you that she could

kill you if she wanted to, but you were lucky because she liked

you.

“Okay,” Lila said, calming her giggles. “Okay, we’ll stay

and we’ll dance.”

Cassie threw the cigarette in the toilet and lit another one.

“I thought you wanted to

dance,” I teased, realizing that I

was starting to have fun. It was like I hadn’t exhaled since I’d

begun getting ready that afternoon. I had been waiting for my

date to take my hand, but laughing with Lila and Cassie would

do for now.

“In a minute,” Cassie said.

“Can’t wait,” Lila said, smiling at me again.

“You do realize we all have our cell phones,” I said.

“You upload anything to YouTube and I’ll be uploading

my own video,” Cassie said, inhaling sharply. “It’ll be worse

than my dancing, believe me.”

“I’m not sure what could be,” Lila said, laughing again.

“Shut up,” Cassie said, giving Lila a light shove.

Cassie’s dancing felt like a big joke. But her wanting to

delay it made sense. Locked in the stall, it was only us. Boys

made things complicated.

Our dates might have been inside waiting for us, or they

might not have, but standing in a circle around the toilet, we

didn’t have to worry about that—

yet. We could smoke and

laugh and pretend this was just like any other time we were

together, when the smoke was hovering above us like insects

and we were laughing and whispering about nothing.

When nothing felt like everything.

“They are here; I know it,” Lila said as we left the

bathroom. We turned the corner past the trophy case and

walked toward the welcome table in front of the gym.

Joe Wright and Leslie Preston sat there, she in a purple

dress, he in a tux with matching tie. He was sweating and his

usually spiky blond hair was matted down, as though he had

just come off the dance floor.

“We’re in hell,” Cassie muttered.

“Tickets, please,” Leslie said, looking at us the way

everyone looked at us—like we were flies that were bothering

her.

I didn’t really know Leslie, but I knew Joe, or had known

him. He lived across the street from me. We’d played together

when we were younger, like kids on the same street do. We’d

shared a bus stop until last year, when I stopped taking the

bus; we’d been friends until three years ago, when I started

hanging out with Cassie and Lila.

Were Leslie and Joe dating? It didn’t seem possible.

Of course, she dated anyone there was to date, was on any

committee there was to join, and was friends with anyone

there was to be friends with. Well, except for losers and dorks,

or rebels like Cassie, Lila, and me.

“Our dates have them. I think they’re inside,” Lila said.

“Names,” Leslie said, looking at a clipboard.

“You know our names,” Cassie said.

“Their names.” She squinted. I’d never said anything to

her, but from the way she was acting, my guess was Cassie had,

and that it involved swear words.

“Brian Reynolds and Kevin and Aaron,” Lila listed,

ticking them off on her fingers.

“Kevin and Aaron?” Leslie asked.

Lila shrugged.

She didn’t even know their last names. I wasn’t sure if

that, or the fact that we were now begging to get into our own

prom, was worse.

“Not here,” Leslie said, looking at her list.

The gym door opened—three girls from our class leaving

to go to the bathroom. Three girls dressed just like Cassie,

Lila, and me, having a totally different night. The music was

loud, bass thumping. I saw kids from our class jumping up

and down in circles in the middle of the dance floor in their

stockinged feet. I saw a glimpse of blue and white balloons

and sparkly lights as the door slammed shut.

We should have stayed in the bathroom.

“Can’t we just look?” Lila asked.

“Not without tickets,” Leslie said. “This prom took a lot of

work and cost a lot of money, not that you would know.”

“We bought tickets,” Lila said.

“Then where are they?” she asked.

“Probably scalped for weed,” Cassie said under her breath.

I looked at Joe. He looked down. I couldn’t remember

who’d stopped talking first. Who’d started glancing away when

we saw each other on the sidewalk, in the hallway. I guess it

didn’t matter. We’d fallen into that rhythm as easily as we had

fallen out of our old one.

The gym door opened again. A slow song seeped out as

school gossip-monger Ruthie Jensen entered the hall. She

stood there in her pale pink dress, acting as though she wasn’t

listening.

It was like she had a sixth sense for when your life was

sucking.

“Come on, you know us,” I whispered.

“Sure,” Joe said, looking through me, “but you still need a

ticket.”

“We go to this school. Why would we not buy tickets?” I

was this close. There was no way I wasn’t getting inside, with

or without a date.

“School policy,” he said, shrugging.

Leslie smiled and snuggled into him.

I shouldn’t have been surprised. He had no reason to be

nice to me. We never liked seeing each other. It was always

uncomfortable. I hated that he knew who I had been before I

was me.

“You don’t have your tickets?” Ruthie asked, trying to

gather more information. She pulled her pale pink wrap

tightly around her. She was telling

everyone about this.

“Let’s go,” Cassie said, turning toward the door. “Thanks a

lot, assholes.”

I didn’t bother asking if she still wanted to stay and dance.

It didn’t even seem funny anymore.

I looked at Joe, giving him one last chance. He didn’t take

it.

We drove around aimlessly, smoking cigarettes.

“Well, that totally sucked,” Lila said.

“You suck,” Cassie said.

I took a drag and watched the ash fall like snowflakes as

I tapped it on the open window. “Which one was supposed to

be my date?” I asked.

“Aaron, I guess,” Lila said.

“Who cares?” Cassie said.

“What does he look like?” I closed my eyes. Maybe I was

out of it enough to create a fake memory.

“I don’t know,” Lila said.

“Like I said, who cares?” Cassie said.

I opened my eyes. Why

did I care? He had stood me up.

He obviously didn’t care.

“Brian’s friends with him on Facebook, if you want to look

him up,” Lila said, trying to give me her phone.

I held up my hand like a crossing guard, my light blue nails

still mocking me. I dropped it in a fist on my lap and shook

my head. There was no way I could handle the possibility of

seeing what Aaron was

really doing right now.

“This is so boring. Isn’t there anywhere else we can go?”

Lila asked.

“Everyone we know is at the stupid prom or hiding from

us,” I said.

“Brian isn’t hiding from us.”

“Okay, whatever,” Cassie said, looking at me in the

rearview mirror.

“He forgot,” Lila said, having convinced herself. “He does

a lot of drugs. He only has a select number of brain cells left.”

“That explains why he likes you, I guess,” Cassie said.

I snorted. I couldn’t help it.

“Shut up, Amy.”

I covered my mouth.

“This is just like some sort of fucked-up fairy tale,”

Cassie said. I could see her smiling to herself in the rearview

mirror. “Like Cinderella, except all twisted up and without

Cinderella.”

“So, what does that make us?” Lila asked. “The ugly

stepsisters? Thanks a lot.”

“You’re welcome,” Cassie said, lighting another cigarette

and swerving onto the shoulder. “Fucking car,” she said as she

righted us.

“I am not ugly,” Lila said, crossing her arms and screwing

up her face like a kid having a temper tantrum.

“We know,” Cassie said, rolling her eyes.

“All dressed up and no place to go,” Lila wailed, like a

cringeworthy audition from that one girl in drama club, the

one who never gets the part.

Her prayers were answered by the lights and sirens of a

police car coming up behind us.

“Fucking police,” Cassie said as they pulled us over.

I looked at the enormous bag of Brian’s marijuana on the

seat next to me. Crap.

We definitely should have stayed in the bathroom.

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