Girls Like Me

By Vivianne Goode All Rights Reserved ©

Drama / Romance

The Girl With Crows' Feet

The Popular B*tch (aka Summer Holland)

My door is thrown open, slamming against the doorstop and rattling forward. I jump up fresh out of dead sleep, firmly holding up a pillow in some sort of self-defense. My heart thumps loudly in my chest as I struggle to make out the threat.

Chloe stands in the doorway to the bathroom, firmly planted in a power stance. At the unthreatening sight of her, I flop back down on my back, groaning in annoyance. I shield my sensitive eyes from the bright light above me, focusing back on Chloe. She’s only wearing a flowery tank top and underwear and I can’t help but notice her rapidly growing boobs. I’m tempted to point them out and congratulate her on them. At 11, Chloe is going through changes that she’d rather not talk about, embarrassed by any acknowledgment of them. But my mom doesn’t talk to her about them, so I feel it is my duty to act ’mom” in this area of Chloe’s life. I’ve already prepared my speech about the birds and the bees, though I’m really dreading that one. For now, I’ve settled on normalizing her normal body.

“Your boobs are growing,” I say, struggling to stifle a yawn. Her face flushes and crosses her arms protectively over her relatively flat chest. I’ve always been more candid than her, much to her disgust. She has no problem snooping through my phone or sneaking into my locked room, but she hates anything having to do with bodies or bodily functions. She narrows her eyes at me, staring holes through my sprawled out form.

There’s nothing much to see. I’m wearing absolutely nothing. I enjoy sleeping in my purest form: my birthday suit. Chloe never fails to comment on how disgusting it is that I let my lady bits, as she calls it, rub against my sheets. It’s not like I’m forcing the image of myself onto her. She accepted the possibility of seeing me naked and proud as soon as she came into my room unannounced.

“Disgusting, Summer. What if you peed yourself in the middle of the night? Huh? What’ll you do then?” She asks me this all the time. I always say the same thing, choosing to ignore the relatively small impact a thin layer of underwear would have on a stream of urine leaving my body. Chloe’s never satisfied with the answer and I know she never will be.

“I’ll let Scooter clean it up for me.” I mimic the action of licking my bed sheets, as I always do. She grimaces every time. Scooter runs up behind Chloe and attempts to jump on her legs. I pretend to lick the sheets more furiously. She fake gags, brushes off Scooter, and flicks me off.

“Hey! Who taught you that? Chloe!” I’m amused, but actually concerned about where she learned that vulgar gesture.

She yells from her room. “The same person who would let her dog lick her piss!”

I don’t even try to reprimand her for the curse word in that sentence. Touche, little sister.

I look at the neon pink analog clock beside my bed. 6:45. I have 10 minutes to get ready. Shit. Chloe must’ve barged in here to wake me up when I didn’t come down at my usual time. The instances in which I’m thankful for Chloe’s lack of concern for my privacy are few and far between.

My ankle almost rolls as I clumsily stumble out of bed. I push through the pain and make it to the bathroom, bracing myself against the countertop, dizzy from standing up so fast and an obvious hangover. Kaleidoscope patterns litter my vision and my head spins, causing me to tilt toward the mirror. I waste time I don’t have waiting for my body to catch up with my actions, for my head to stop its game of ring-around-the-roses. I silently go through every single curse word I know, starting at the beginning of the alphabet.

I get to H before the spots in my vision and throbbing in my head clear up. I switch the faucet on and rinse my face, debating whether to use my face wash to wash off the facial oil that collected overnight. I either go to school late or greasy-faced. I choose the latter. In the reflection of the mirror, I see Chloe leaning against the doorway, watching me fumble to make myself presentable. Scooter’s wagging his tail excitedly next to her. I try my best to ignore them, despite Chloe stretching her face to form grotesque visuals in the mirror in an attempt to distract me.

My makeup bag clashes onto the floor when I open up the cabinet under my sink to retrieve it. I go from H to M in my alphabet of curse words and pick it up, gathering the scattered makeup, praying nothing broke.

I take a break from my cursing to whisper a thankful hallelujah for my intact bag of makeup. My hands work purely off of muscle memory and stress to apply my usual face of makeup, doing a substantial job at covering up the grease that I chose not to wash off. Isn’t this some type of psychology theory? Humans work more efficiently at their optimal level of stress. Well, my optimal level of stress seems to be through the roof.

I get to the finishing touches of my makeup and I can almost feel my confidence rising. Eyebrows. Drawn. Lips. Filled. Pimples. Covered. Mascara. Mascara. Mascara. It’s gone.

“CHLOE!” The little twerp must not have put it back when she used it yesterday, without my permission. I look in the mirror but Chloe’s gone. Focusing for a second, I hear Chloe fixing her daily bowl of cereal in the kitchen. My phone reads 6:53, along with a text from Harper.

Harper: here, bitch

Of course. That bitch is always late and the one day she comes early is the one day I’m utterly fucked up. There’s not enough time. I want to rip out my hair, which I then realize I won’t have time to straighten. I make it from N to Z and start at A again. Assface. Asshat. Asshole. Ass. Arse. Bitch….

When I throw open the white doors of my closet, something primal passes over me and I just want to rip out every single overpriced clothing item in my shitty closet, tearing them to shreds right at their delicate seams. I decide not to.

The jean shorts I pull on feel a bit too high on my ass, showing the sensual underbutt that no one cares about but hormonal teenage boys and administrators. The baby blue sweater I got from Forever 21 last weekend with Harper that I swore I could not live without feels scratchy and tight, despite the open space between my stomach and the fabric. The ‘trendy’ holes in the clothing item seem a lot larger than they did on the hanger.

I make it downstairs with my backpack and phone in hand, almost bumping into Chloe, looking perfectly serene as she pours Raisin Bran into her bowl of milk. Usually, I would rip her a new one for pouring her cereal after her milk, but I don’t even have time to ask her about my mascara, unfortunately. So I just grab a protein bar and head for the door. Chloe says nothing. If it weren’t for her seemingly normal interaction with me earlier, I would think she was mad at me.

Harper lays on the horn. “Lock the door! Love you, Chlo!” I yell after myself to Chloe as I slam close the front door. Harper rolls down the passenger seat window and sticks her head out, her wavy, brown hair sticking to the dew on the side of the car. “Come on, dude. We’re gonna be late for you-know-what.”

I do know what. And I feel bad that I’m putting you-know-what in danger. I throw my backpack into the backseat and slide down in my seat, groaning in relief. Harper hands me the AUX and I plug my phone in, scrolling through Spotify for some car ride tunes. I breathe a sigh of relief for making it on time.

The car jerks forward and we’re off to purgatory. Harper’s driving 11 over my neighborhood’s speed limit for you-know-what and I know better than to comment on it. “Any requests?”

“I’m feeling musicals today. I couldn’t get “You Can’t Stop The Beat” out of my head last night. I literally could not stop the beat.” She laughs at her own joke and I just roll my eyes. I shuffle the playlist from the musical “Something Rotten” and set my phone down in the cupholder. Harper’s lips move silently to the lyrics of the “God, I Hate Shakespeare”.

We sit without words for a few minutes while I wind down from my frantic morning routine and Harper loses herself in her bad lip syncing. I focus on my attempt to control my labored breathing, looking out the window at the dimly lit sky.

We pass a small boutique, showcasing a tacky, multicolored dress in its foggy windows. The sight reminds me of a certain unsavory person. “Okay, you will not believe what happened last night. I’m soooo pissed.” I turn down the music to tell Harper about the ordeal last night with Jakob and Mary. Just thinking about it makes me mad all over again.

“Tell me tell me tell me. I haven’t heard the slightest bit of good shit all fucking week. Well, except for one thing that I need to tell you about after your little thing. It’s goooood. Like, Noah Centineo goooood.” I feel the need to wince at her attraction toward the mainstream rom-com actor.

She’s practically bouncing in her seat, waiting for my story, which I proceed to describe in painstaking detail, knowing she would throw a fit if she found something out about it later that I didn’t tell her. A smile slowly spreads across Harper’s perfectly made-up face when I get to the end when I threw a bland insult in Mary’s face.

“What the fuck? I’ve never even heard of this Mary chick before. Whatever, whoever she is, you gave that ugly bitch what she deserved. Given, you could have thought of a better insult...” I punch her arm. “...but I would have given anything to see the look on her stupid, little face. Was she shocked? Did she cry? Oh, please tell me that little hooker cried.”

“No, I wasn’t that lucky. I mean, I was lucky enough that she didn’t try to say something back. If she tried me again, I don’t know what I would have done. She would have been lucky if she left with just a broken nose.”

“Scratch what I said earlier. I would have given anything to see that. Addison Holland kicking some nobody’s ass at Kip’s house party? Absolute gold.” She pauses to pick up her vanilla bean frappuccino and takes a long sip from it. “Like, who did she think she is? She used her brother to get her into a party, barged in on you and Jakob, insulted you for no apparent reason, then has the audacity to think SHE has a right to be mad when you give her a taste of her own medicine? Unbelievable.” Another sip.

“Back in my day, people respected their elders,” Harper then adds, shaking her head in disbelief and disapproval. I laugh at her ironic comment. I doubt we’re more than three years older than her. I brush it aside.

“I know, right? She literally doesn’t even know me. I’ve never seen her before in my life and she just comes at me! Like what the fuck was her problem? I’ve never done anything to her.” I’m basically yelling at this point. Harper’s head bobs along with my words in silent agreement and approval. I turn the music volume down to a lull and turn to her, seeking for reassurance that I wasn’t the crazy one in the situation.

“Don’t even stress about it, dude. Mary probably saw a pretty girl, who she knew was popular and liked, and was just filled with jealousy. It made her feel bad about herself and she wanted to bring you down to her low, low level and could only think of one way to do that. Girls like her are just unpredictable around girls that aren’t as pathetic as they are. They don’t know how to act,” Harpers says as if reading my mind. She doesn’t even look at me, nor bat an eyelash like she doesn’t have to put much thought into her answer. Like it’s just common sense. It is. It is.

“That’s what I was telling myself. But like, you know me. Yeah, I talk shit about people, but I’ve never said it to their face. And I’ve always had a reason. But I just kind of feel bad. But I wasn’t the bitch in that situation right? I acted like any normal person would have in that situation?”

“Yeah. You were completely right in saying what you did. I mean, you’re kind of a bitch on a normal basis, but you weren’t particularly bitchy in that situation. You’re fine,” Harper replies. I punch her arm even harder than before, giggling along with her before leaning back into my seat.

I sigh, rubbing my fists into my eyes. Kaleidoscope patterns return to my vision and I remember something.

“Hey, do you have any mascara in here? I couldn’t find mine,” I ask, but I’m already digging through her backpack, scavenging for the miracle product, not waiting for an answer.

“Front pocket, I think. Oh, that reminds me of that gossip I was gonna tell you about. Get my phone from the second pocket and go to my Snapchat My Eyes Only album. They’re the most recently added pictures. It’s crazy. Macy airdropped them to like everyone at the party last night and I had to keep them. In my secret folder, of course. Can’t have my mom snooping through my phone and thinking I’m gay or something.” Harper finally turns to me and I can practically see the excitement in her green eyes. Most people have addictions to things like alcohol, weed, coffee, people of the opposite sex, or heroine. Harper is addicted to other people’s shit. If she could buy it regularly and inject it straight into her bloodstream, she would.

“Okay, so you know Jamie Vil-something?” Harper’s finger taps on the steering wheel rhythmically. It starting to tick me off in a way that makes my throat itchy and my leg starts to shake, but I brush it off. I don’t tell her to stop.

“Jamie Villasenor?” I lean toward Harper in sudden interest, taking my mind off my growing annoyance with her tick. Now, this is something I want to hear.

“Yes! That one. Well apparently her veeeery intimate photos somehow made their way from her phone to probably every single phone in our entire school. Nobody knows who did it, but you have to see them.” She’s talking so fast I have to concentrate heavily to decipher her mushed words. The tapping stops. My leg stops shaking and the lump in my throat clears. I’m okay. I process Harper’s words and concoct the type of response I feel like Harper is hoping for.

“No freaking way. She’s in my chem class and she is such a goody-two-shoes. A true lady in the streets and freak in the sheets, I must say,” Harper barks out a laugh. I hate that saying, but it obviously hit the right spot with Harper. She’s all but bouncing in her seat, making me slightly nervous as the car swerves slightly to the left, before Harper jerks it back to the middle. The bouncing doesn’t stop.

My arms snake back into my lap, phone and mascara in hand. I twist open the tube of makeup, flip down the visor, and start layering the product onto my lashes. The process would be hard enough in any car, so with Harper’s reckless driving, it’s near impossible. A streak of black smears over my eyelid as she goes 30 mph over a speed bump.

“Addy! Do the thing on my phone. I promise you want to see the pics,” Harper whines, hitting her hands on the steering wheel in a mini tantrum. I apply a few final swipes, satisfied with only getting a few more smudges on my eyelid, and close the tube, my curiosity taking over as I open Harper’s phone with my fingerprint and search for this picture.

“I forgot to ask, how did your little talk with Kip go? I saw you guys talking it up last night before I left with Jakob. Tell me, is he a good kisser?” I tease, scrolling through Harper’s phone, taking my access to her phone as a chance to snoop through her snapchats. I reply to a few, waiting for an answer from Harper.

She’s silent for a moment, a twinkle in her eye giving her away. Here it comes. “Yeah, he’s a super good kisser. In both areas.”

My mouth falls open, the corners of my mouth curling up ever so slightly, though the news is no surprise to me. I doubt last night was the night Harper took a break from her usual antics to practice chastity. I would never tell her this - hell no - so I feign surprise. Because I’m in no mood for Harper get offended, to ask if I actually think she’s a slut in that innocent, hurt voice of her’s that indicates she’s not kidding. If I were to have no reaction to this news, implying that I’m not surprised, that’s exactly what I’d get. And suddenly, I’d be the bad guy. All for having a genuine reaction to the information.

So I act surprised because Harper and I are in a good mood and I don’t want to mess it up by being real with her.

“You...slut,” I giggle. See, because I joke about it, it means I’m not serious about it. It implies that Harper isn’t a slut because, if she was, I wouldn’t joke about it like that. Harper beams, her tan face reddening slightly. In a good way. It worked.

“You’re taking so freaking long. Gimme that.” Changing the subject, she snatches the phone from my hand. She taps through her phone for a few seconds, glancing up at the road a concerningly low number of times. “Here! There’re like four or five. All varying levels of slutty. The one where it looks like she’s doing some sort of yoga position is my personal favorite. All of them are kind of impressive, to be honest. I don’t know if that makes them more or less embarrassing.”

She hands me her phone and I start swiping. Harper was right: these are impressive. They look like they were taken with some professional camera and uploaded to her phone; they’re that good. The only problem: nothing is left to the imagination. I’m seeing parts of a her that some porn censors. I’m highly intrigued, but I can’t help but feel a tinge of pity. I brush it off, swiping back to the first picture to look at them all over again.

“You’re totally right about the quality. These must’ve taken hours.” I set her phone down in her lap and take a sip from her frappuccino sitting in the cup holder. “It’s sort of messed up though.”

“Yeah, I guess. But, I mean, if she wasn’t such a little skank, this wouldn’t have happened. She took those pictures, she sent those pictures, then nature ran its course. She blew that door wide open and someone walked in. Then I guess that someone propped the door open for more people to come in. So now the whole school is in and she has no one to blame but herself.” She takes the drink from my hand and finishes it off, even taking time to lick the excess whipped cream from the green plastic straw. “Hey, aren’t restaurants supposed to stop giving these out. I thought social media’s on some sort of Save The Turtles wave. Come on, Starbucks, get with it. I say, let’s boycott Starbucks.”

I shake my head, knowing Harper wouldn’t survive a day without her overpriced coffee. It’s not her being a basic bitch. It’s her being a caffeine addict and being too prideful to get her fix from anywhere but the overpriced, well-known coffee shop that is Starbucks.

I stare at Jamie’s chipped nail polish. The relaxed grin on her makeup-free face that only grows throughout the pictures. My stomach churns as the sickeningly human feel of these pictures. “She didn’t ask for those pictures of be leaked. You know I’ve sent pictures. I would have been pissed if they got out.”

“I know that and you know I’ve sent them too. The difference between us and her? A lot. People know us. People know we’re not like that. And we’re smart enough to know who’s worthy of the holy temples that are our bodies.” She lifts her voice up at the end of her statement as if she’s singing in a choir. Nothing about what she just said made much sense, but I don’t have the energy or feel the need to point it out. I smack her arm and she falls into another fit of giggles.

I suddenly don’t want to talk about this anymore. The easiest way to get out of the conversation….“I mean, you’re right. Still feel bad though.”

“Also, she was pretty dumb not to crop her face out of the pictures. It’s common practice to ensure nothing like this happens again AND, with a face like her’s, she should want to do that anyways.” The empty Starbucks cup is crushed between her hands, like the red solo cup at the party last night, and stuffed back into the cup holder.

“That’s really fucked up.” Now I’m itching to change the subject.

Harper doesn’t reply. I let out a breath I didn’t know I was holding. Her lips are back to mouthing lyrics, this time to “Welcome to the Renaissance” as if she’s already forgotten about the conversation we were having. Knowing Harper, she was probably never really that invested in the first place. Typical.

We pull into the student parking lot, into the parking space Harper and I painstakingly painted to resemble the Mona Lisa, except she’s wearing a crop top and large hoop earrings, holding up a middle finger. We made it so the middle finger is quite obviously a middle finger, but can be justified as either a pointer or ring finger, so administration can’t chew our asses. In Harper’s calligraphy, “Sassy, classy, and VERY trashy” is scrawled at the top. I didn’t really want Harper to put that on there but looking back, five words have never summarized a picture so well. Five words have never summarized us so well.

Harper loves to make the joke that this parking spot is our baby and we drive over our baby almost every single morning. She says it at least once a week and her laughter has not yet waned. It stopped being funny the second time she said it. It’s one of those things that just hearing it physically hurts you. Every time she says it, I want to plug my ears because my stomach just cannot take it. Every time, I refrain from doing so.

The things I do for our friendship.

We get out of Harper’s BMW, instantly feeling the morning chill across our exposed skin. I am suddenly painfully aware of my choice to wear a holey, but still trendy, knit sweater, knowing it would be well below a comfortable 70 degrees. Harper’s not faring much better in her cropped long sleeve shirt, but her ripped jeans provide a lot more comfort than my shorts. We both resist curling in on ourselves, settling for walking very close together toward the entrance of the building in hopes of getting a convection of bodily heat going on between us. The backpacks hanging off our shoulder provide little help.

In the two minute walk from the parking lot to the building, Harper and I amuse ourselves by breathing out hot air, laughing at how it billows into the cold air like we’re smoking.

Warm, stuffy air greets us as we walk through the threshold of the building. I spot Jamie Villasenor standing by her locker almost right away, and she’s looking right at us. Why is she looking at us? Why is she even at school. If my nudes were on the phone of every person at this school, I would be holed up in my bedroom with a combination lock on my door. And it’s not like Harper and I had any part in it whatsoever, so why the look? It’s the look that makes me feel threatened. Mouth relaxed, but shoulders tight and lips slightly squinted. She tried to feign casualness, but I can see through it, right to the layer of envy and hatred lying underneath. I understand the envy part. But why the anger? I haven’t done anything to her. At least not that she knows of. I don’t dwell on it for too long.

Our strides sync as we walk down the hallway, at a medium pace, shoulders back, eyes forward, arms loose, walk casually. A lazy sort of confidence that other girls feel threatened by, though they know deep down they shouldn’t, and that boys feel inclined to watch, as they feel they should. It’s the walk that only pretty people pull off because they know they’re pretty and they’re filled to the brim with confidence and they don’t need a runway strut to showcase that they have everything. Their excellence shows through in every other aspect of their life. Not trying to be perfect while still being perfect is the most envious trait of all. And I know I have it. Everyone knows. That lower-class girl with shit-colored eyes that I pass knows it.

Eager hellos and overly simplified heys batter us as we make our way toward our destination. We respond to the important ones, nod to the relevant ones, and blatantly ignore all others. I know that won’t stop them from greeting us tomorrow, though we’ll just do the same thing. The desire for popularity drives some people insane. Was it Einstein who said insanity was doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result?

In a few minutes, we make it to the east end of the school, to a vast stretch of lockers lining the walls in between classroom doors. Harper stops us dead in our tracks, not moving for a few seconds, just staring at the wall of lockers in from of her. I look at her and almost laugh when I see something like panic in her eyes. I tug her toward a locker in the opposite side of the hallway and turn her around so both of us are facing it, making it look like we’re just two casual friends just standing at our lockers. Even though we’re not. Even though our lockers are on the other side of the school.

Out of the corner of my eye, I see you-know-what and elbow Harper hard in her ribs. Her head snaps in you-know-what’s direction and her mouth falls open. I bring my hand up to shut her jaw and to push her head the other way, prodding her to act cool. We both try to stand nonchalantly for a few seconds, but both our heads eventually drift back to you-know-what.

You-know-what’s hair is a bit messier than usual today, like he woke up late, like I did, and rushed out the door. I can almost feel Harper producing a waterfall between her legs next to me. You-know-what stops in front of his locker, uses his long fingers to open the combination lock, and takes out a few large textbooks. I take a few seconds to examine his Polo Assn. shirt, ironed, hopefully by his mom, paired with a pastel pair of shorts that would make cotton candy jealous. Not my taste. But that barely matters. He might as well have been Peter Krasinski himself travelling across town to buy a girl her favorite drink, with Harper fanning herself and basically dying next to me at the sight of him. It’s almost pathetic.

“Just look at the stack of books he’s carrying. I just love a man with a brain. I’m too smart to be with all these dumb boys. I need Jason to take care of me,” Harper says, in something barely above a whisper, to no one in particular. I choose to believe she’s talking to me. With our faces to close together, less than a foot apart, I smell the cream cheese on her breath. She probably ate it this morning, on top of a scooped bagel. Yep, definitely a scooped bagel. Even though she’s on the Keto diet that she swears her life on.

“Harper, you’re two math classes behind the standard for our grade and you’re failing that class. I don’t think you’re in the position to call anyone dumb,” I whisper back. She casts a glare at me, before returning her focus to you-know-what. Her intelligence is one of the few things I can insult without her getting butthurt. Touching on any of her other shortcomings is like talking back to my mom after she found out Chloe ate the last bag of celery sticks.

“I’m not talking about the fake intelligence that is tested here at school. I’m talking about emotional intelligence and street smarts. What matters in a man. What I know Jason has. Just look at him.” The dreaminess in her voice is intensifying and I can’t help but roll my eyes before following her command and looking at Jason.

He’s walking away, probably to his first period. It’s probably something like AP Physics or AP Statistics. Considering both their schedules, this five-minute window when he stops at his locker every morning is probably the only time Harper will ever have with him. The more I think about it, the sadder it gets.

“Weren’t you fawning over Kip just last night? What happened to that?” I turn back around, Harper following suit, and start walking in the direction we came. The hallways are emptying and teachers are starting to hold open their doors for the students filing in. Our excitement of the day has worn off.

“Oh him? Nothing.” For dramatic effect, Harper flips her hair over her shoulder, sighing deeply. “He’s a good fling. But Jason...Jason is my soulmate. I’ll keep Kip around as long as Jason is oblivious to the truth.”

From her dramatic tone of voice, I want to think that she’s joking. My best guess would be that she is joking, but there’s a layer of truth to her words. Something like delusion. I decide to humor her. “And what if Jason never wakes up and realizes that he loves you with his entire heart and he wants to spend the rest of his life with you?”

“Well then maybe I’ll keep Kip around a bit longer. Maybe marry him, buy a house, have some kids. But no matter what, I’ll be ready to leave him for Jason at the drop of a hat.”

“You’re insane. I hope you know that.” That’s what Harper wants to hear. She wants to hear me going along with her dreamy spiel, not actually pointing out how batshit crazy she’s being over Jason. If I were to actually call Harper crazy, shit would hit the fan. Me joking about her mental health ensures that I would never think there’s something wrong with it.

“I know.” She starts to inspect her perfectly manicured nails for god-knows-what when the bell rattles through the hallways. Our principal’s voice comes over the intercom to tell us to remember to vote for homecoming court and to wish us a good Thursday. The intercom lets off a high pitched squeal before turning off. We continue walking down the hallway, now bustling with kids trying to get get to class on time. Try-hards.

“Who are you voting in for homecoming court?” I ask, trying to mask the eagerness in my voice as calm curiosity. My best efforts to put the layer of disinterest over my voice, which I’ve practiced numerous times to perfect, don’t fool her. Harper turns to me, sees the strained expression on my face, and laughs. Her laugh, sounding like a choking cat, sets me on edge.

“You’re hilarious sometimes. Look at your cute little face trying to hide your childhood dream. How wet does it make you just thinking of that fake plastic crown being bestowed on your pretty little head? Look, I’m very dumb. But I’m smart enough to see right through your little ’I Don’t Care’...” She puts up air quotes “...facade.”

I wonder where she learned the word ‘facade’ from.

I’m rendered speechless, but impressed that she remembered that. The last time we discussed Homecoming Queen must have been in fifth grade, seven years ago. I doubt Harper knows what shoes I wore yesterday. I doubt Harper remember what shoes she put on today. Metallic grey slip-on Vans, for the record.

“So does that mean I can count on your vote?” I flash her the cheesiest smile and wrap my arms around her. It makes it a bit harder to walk in a straight line together, but I won’t let go until I hear something along the lines of a yes come out of her mouth. I know words don’t mean much of anything, but Harper was right. I want this so badly, I can almost taste the lipstick staining my teeth as I cry while the crown is placed on my meticulously styled updo.

I also have a deep fear, that I would never dish to anyone, that Harper is jealous of me, just like every other girl in this school, and wants everything I have, and she wants this crown for herself. Every step she takes toward me, every promise she promises to me is just part of a ploy to earn my trust and backstab me when I’m least expecting it. If there was any time for backstabbing, homecoming season would be it.

It’s conceited. It’s bitchy, I know. I shouldn’t even have that thought. She’s my best friend. I trust her… to an extent. But how deep is friendship, really, when it comes to one’s personal agenda and motivations? Just because someone braids your hair and tells you how pretty you are, doesn’t mean they don’t criticize your choice of blond highlights and laugh at your gigantic nose that you got from your dad. You can be all lovey and committed, but then do what you think will benefit you the most as soon as the chance presents itself. It’s really not that hard. If it was between ten million dollars and your best friend, which would you choose?

I feel foolish for even having that thought. I only have them after I’ve asked something and my entire day’s mood rests on Harper’s answer, whether or not she’s on my side. As if a one-worded answer would decide whether or not she’s really a back-stabbing bitch. An invisible hand of primal instinct and wariness swipes over me, changing me from the inside out. I feel like a dumb, fake bitch every time Harper answers and I’m reminded of how much she actually cares about me and how much I love her.

But it never stops me from having the same thoughts the next time.

“Yes. YES! Lay off, you’re pressing on a bruise I got yesterday,” She whines. I unwrap my arms from her and kiss her sloppily on her cheek. We’re back in business. She gags and wipes it off with the back of her hand like I have some contagious disease or something. I make up for it by planting another one, even sloppier than the first. Defeated, she doesn’t bother to wipe this one off. The intrusive thought is long gone.

“To make you even happier, I was going to pressure everyone in my first period into voting for you too,” Harper says, as we make it to her first period.

“OoOOO! Using peer pressure to push my agenda...I like it,” I joke in a sexy voice, purring like a kitten. She sticks her tongue out at me and peels away from me, into the classroom. From outside the door, I can hear her booming voice saying “Alright bitches, here’s what’s gonna happen…”

I hope the teacher isn’t in there yet.

My first period is in the hallway perpendicular to Harper’s, so I’m stepping through the doorway just as the late bell rings. My teacher casts me a side-eyed warning from his place up in the front of the classroom. For what? I’m here on time. Sorry I missed the first two minutes of you complaining about your piece of shit wife and her crazy fucking family. I’ll do better next time.

I take my place next to two girls with their desks pushed close together, whispering. Like always, they’re probably raving about Kylie Jenner’s new collection that came out this morning or a Taylor Swift sighting with her possible fiance. Some basic shit. Nothing of importance. I cross my left leg over the other, folding my arms, closing myself off from anything going on this room. Like I’d want to be involved.

Thing One cups her pudgy hand over her mouth as she giggles something into Thing Two’s ear, her body quaking with amusement. Her nails are badly manicured, probably by Thing Two, and chewed to just about nothing. Flaps of irritated skin hang limply, framing her ugly fingernails. What on earth is so funny?

Just as I start to think they’re talking about me, something about my greasy face or relatively stringy hair, Thing Two turns to me with a wide smile on her face. Too wide. Too many teeth. “Addison, I absolutely love your shoes. I’ve been looking for a pair for the longest time.”

I look down at my shoes instinctively. They’re really not that great. If I’m being honest, they’re a bit basic. The black Vans Old Skool that about five other people in this room are wearing. Of course, I’m wearing them the best, but that’s not the point. I feel like a fool for thinking these girls were anything but harmless. My soft lips spread into a grateful smile, reaching my eyes. “Thank you so much! I was in a rush today, so I just slipped them on quickly. But your comment made my day!”

Holy shit, I felt like I was commenting underneath some girl’s basic ass photo at the beach. Love ya! You’re so pretty! Or Gorgeous! Some short, surface-level way to make sure they know that you saw the picture, that you went above and beyond just liking it, no you expressed your gratitude for that picture and showed your respect for that girl and her DD boobs. All alongside just about every other kiss-ass girl in the school. It’s courtesy, really. Even though you really don’t give a shit about the girl or her stupid $24.89 bathing suit and are just doing it to ensure that your comment section is filled up the same way later.

The girl’s face lights up like it’s Christmas morning, crows feet appearing at her eyes. This girl can’t be older than 18 and she has wrinkles? Oh, honey…ever heard of pomegranate seed oil? They sell it at TJ Maxx for less than 10 dollars. 10 dollars isn’t a very large price to pay to look your fucking age. I gnaw at my bottom lip, contemplating telling her this. It almost pains me to look at it.

Oblivious to my internal battle, she replies, “You’re welcome. By the way, we are all voting for you! You’re totally gonna win.” I don’t know who she is referring to with the term ‘we all’, but I have no time to wonder before Thing One chimes in, “Yeah, totally. We’ll be like, sooo surprised if you don’t.”

Another thank you is politely muttered and I wonder why I’m wasting my breath, my energy to keep these girls’ respect. Maybe because I actually appreciate them for voting for me. Or because I like that they like my shoes. My shoes are quite nice. I prop them up on the chair in front of me to get a better look at them. The Things have returned to whatever they were doing before I attracted their attention, the crows feet returning to Thing Two’s face.

I pull out my laptop when I notice everyone around me pulling out theirs. The voting website allows two nominations for a girl and two nominations for a boy. I scoff at the idea of giving one of my votes to a girl besides myself and type my name into both slots. I leave the slots for the boys empty. I couldn’t care less who the four boys on senior court are as long as I’m one of the four girls walking alongside them.

I can’t help it. I crane my neck to get a good look at the laptops propped open around the room, squinting to see the tiny text typed into each of their screens.

Addison Holland.

Addison Holland.

Harper Chandler. The corner of my mouth twitches upward. Acceptable.

Addison Holland.

Jillian Criss? The girl who went to that camp for girls with eating disorders last summer? What a waste of a vote.

Addison Holland. Hm.

My quick scan of the room calms my anxiety and I focus my attention on the front of the room, on whatever Mr. Eckert is trying in vain to get the class to understand.

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