One: getting in
Every school has one. At my last school, it was Gina DiMarco, but she never cared much for me. Okay, fine, if you want to be a total stickler about it, she never even knew I existed. I guess it’s like that at most schools. The "It" girl only pays attention to the worthy ones, the inner circle, the worshipful flock who kneel at her feet, feeding off her every word like a pack of anorexic poodles. The rest of us are merely space fillers, extras in a tragically boring movie unimaginatively entitled "High School." But if that’s true, then what,
I ask you, is this latest queen bee—the Gina DiMarco of Beaubridge High—doing talking to an invisible nobody like me? And smack dab in the middle of the cafeteria no less? Everyone knows that what happens in the cafeteria never stays
in the cafeteria. Is she looking to lose her tiara?
"Hey, you’re new here, right?" she asks. She,
of course, being the reigning duchess of teen suburbia—the impossibly stunning Alona Spelton. It’s true I’ve barely been here five hours, but how long does it take to spot royalty? (Even if my radar were out of batteries, the mass of drooling subjects crumbling in her wake as she sashayed through the halls this morning was sort of a dead giveaway.) She slips into a seat at my otherwise empty table and smiles. "I think you’re in my homeroom."
Let’s face it, the first day at a new school’s never exactly a raging orgasm. But try the first day at a new school in the middle of the year, when everyone’s just returned from winter break and not a single bloody soul wants to be there. Including the teachers. This little visit from the acceptance fairy has definitely perked things up a bit.
"Yeah, I, um, just moved here from Philadelphia," I say, eyeing the white gold and diamond ice storm that surrounds her delicate wrist. Scratch that. This girl wouldn’t let anything but platinum touch her bare skin. Me, I’m still wearing the same beat-up, old woven fabric friendship bracelet my buddy Alex gave me when we graduated middle school. But that’s the difference between these kids and me. To them, being poor means only having one beach house.
"Philadelphia?" Alona asks, her vibrant blue eyes twinkling with amazement. Or maybe it’s disgust. You don’t
smell like you’re from Philadelphia,
I expect her to say. Instead, she smiles. "You know, that stunt you pulled with Ms. Luru this morning was waaay
cool—cracking your gum in her face like that even after
she started glaring at you to stop. I swear I thought she was going to have a conniption." Did I do that?
Hell, who cares? If it gets me in with Alona Spelton, I’ll take credit for just about any bad behavior. Except maybe arson.
"Well, it’s a free country," I say, trying to sound nonchalant. "And last time I checked, cracking one’s gum in homeroom was still covered under our Constitution."
Alona laughs, tossing her wavy amber tresses so that they land like a perfectly cascading waterfall over her right shoulder. Uh, is it me or did I just stumble into an Herbal Essences commercial? "Sammie! Grace!" she yells, signaling to two girls who have just left the lunch line. "Over here!"
Wait, rewind just a second. Would any of you happen to know if today’s brown bag special was laced with a little something extra? Because if I’m not hallucinating, that means this totally tripped-out scenario is actually taking place! Can you stand it? My first day of school, and I’m already dining with the worthy ones? Just the inner circle and me?
Uh . . . who else senses there’s something wrong with this picture?
"So, what’s your name again?" Alona asks as she opens her Styrofoam container of . . . Is that sushi?
"Cynthia Gene," I say, biting into my soggy PB&J, "but my friends just call me CG." Not that I have many friends. Or any. Well, except for Alex, who was always sort of more than a friend. And who was sort of more than pissed when I told him I wanted to be free to see other people after I moved. Not that Philadelphia’s that far away from Beaubridge. I could be on his doorstep in forty-five minutes if I wanted to. But I’m not sure I do. I’m not sure what I want anymore. Except to be different. To be popular. I’ve been waiting my whole life for that.
"CG?" Alona asks, shrieking a little—you know, in that Oh, that’s so adorable, I could just choke to death
sort of way. "That is soooo
cute!" She turns to Sammie and Grace, who have just sat down on either side of her. "How cute is that?"
cute," Sammie agrees. Sammie, which I later find out is short for Samara, is a husky-framed zombie who looks like she spends about four hours a day crisping away in a tanning bed. Her hair is a glossy (but obviously bottle-bought) jet black, and her bright red lipstick makes her look like a bleeding ox. Her brain? Seems to be dead as a doornail. Still, at least she’s being nice to me, even if it is
only to please Alona. But why would someone like Alona Spelton want anything to do with a plain, grubby city tomboy type like me?
"You know, I think our fathers work together," the Duchess says. "Your last name’s Silverman, right?"
I nod. So that’s
why Miss Teenage America is being so lovey-dovey. Her father must’ve warned her. I watch plenty of movies—I know how these rich families operate. It’s all about pleasing Daddy.
Alona smiles. "That’s so crazy. My dad is your dad’s boss." She turns to Sammie and Grace again. "Isn’t that crazy? I mean, how crazy is that?"
crazy," Sammie agrees. She shoots me a little smile. "Like, what are the chances?"
"Oh, wait a second," Grace says to Alona. "Is this the one you were telling me about? The one whose family Klytech was going to set up in that little townhouse in the Heights?" Her voice drops a notch or two when she mentions the name of my development, probably because the Heights is best known in this community for its affordable housing. In rich-people speak, I’m about one step away from the projects.
"Grace!" Alona shrieks. Although this time, it’s more of a Shut it before we all die of mortification
"No, it’s cool," I say. "It’s probably no secret from the way I’m dressed that my family doesn’t have a lot of dough. If Klytech hadn’t set us up in that ‘little townhouse,’ we’d all still be living on the streets of Filthadelphia."
Grace turns away from me, clearly embarrassed, but the awkward silence is cut short by another one of Her Highness’s signature shrieks. Actually, that one may have been just an outright pity gasp.
"Were you really
living on the streets?" she asks, her sympathetic baby blues welling up at the sheer thought. I guess this would be a really inappropriate time to bust out laughing. Especially if I’m looking to make these girls my new best friends. But it’s too late—Grace has caught my eye, and I recognize something in her that seems to be lacking in my other two lunch mates. (Some might call it common sense.) It isn’t long before we’re both hysterical.
"What is with
you two?" Alona asks, visibly perturbed, but like a perfectly trained debutante, she’s doing her best not to show it.
Grace throws her head back in a rush of giggles, her buoyant auburn curls bouncing like a bouquet of Slinkys around her graceful neck. Next to Alona and Grace, Sammie looks...