1

 

Bringing out the basket in the morning, would you like?

 

Well yeah, of course, that would be the one that works best.

 

Well, okay, that works then. I’ll be at your house tomorrow, front step—break of dawn.

 

Oh goodness, you’re overdoing yourself! But ok, thank you.

 

Your welcome. Now, good-bye, now.

 

Bye.

 

2

 

Interview~~~~~~~~~~~~~~with the girl of the hood

 

Host: so what inspired you to do such a brave thing as you did?

G.O.T.H. (Girl of the Hood: well, ya know, you gotta do what you gotta do, right? Someone says they have more swag, they asked for it. Someone messes with my baby girl, they asked for it. Ya know?

Host: Now, tell us about the whole decision making process. How, exactly, did this happen as you seed it? How did you make an influence, an effect, on the whole town?

G.O.T.H.: you gon’ ask me? I don’t know! I found the spirit, the courage, the determination in the deep, deep bottom of my heart and I threw it at someone. Yeah.

Host: tell us a little bit about the ball thrown over the fence. What was the outcome of this situation? Also, how did you manage the taxes? (COMING UP)

G.O.T.H.: Well, when I threw the ball o’er the fence, som’in happened. A boy got hit, he told his mom, the whole town found out and stretched my, my famousness.

Host: Thank you for that interview COOOOMIN’ up—stay put for Girl of the Hood’s story about how she kept a roof over her house at 15 years old, how she managed the taxes!! right back at ya, G.O.T.H. watchers, toooNIGHT at 8’oclock! Don’t miss it, folks!

Ending music, a bow from G.O.T.H. and the host

 

3

 

Aw! Thank you, Hillary, thank you! You are just so sweet. Although I am a bit sleepy.

 

Oh, don’t fret it at all. It’s really no big deal for me, any time.

 

Well, um, I better get back to bed. Thanks again, Hill-Bill!

 

Your welcome—don’t call me that. HILLARY. H-I-L-L-A-R-Y.

Okey dokes, bye, Hillary!

 

Bye, Shanicwa.

 

Grrrrr…SHANNON, Hillary! SHANNON!!!!

 

Alright, alright.

 

Narrator: as Hillary headed into the morning sun, a damp dot of possibility hit her. She jumped up.

Hillary: I GOTTT ITTTTTT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Narrator: Meanwhile, Shannon was at home, twirled her red hair through her fingers and eating the fruit from the basket Hillary had dropped off. She hummed to herself.

Shannon: [in song] oh what a beautiful moooorrning, oh what a beautiful daaayy…I’ve got a wonderful feeeellingggg…

Narrator: all of a sudden humming fruit-eating Shannon was interrupted by a knock on the door.

Shannon: w’w’w’ho’s there? If it’s a robber, I bought a BB gun yesterday! BEWARRRRRREEEE!

Narrator: she did her shakiest, creepiest voice and carefully, feeling of fear, opened the door. Standing there, was…

Stranger: HIYA, there! I’m Sally the Sales Woman. In the mood for buying any…nuts? Almonds? Cashews? Pistachios?

Shannon: Um, thanks dude, but I’ve stuffed myself on food toda--

Sally the Sales Woman: EXCUSE ME? I’m NOT A DUDE!!!! Don’t you see females features here?

Narrator: all of a sudden Sally’s voice got quiet.

Sally: I’m sooo sorry. Are you blind???

Shannon laughed.

Shannon: I really appreciate it, [laugh], but…NO.

Sally: Oh, sorry, just checking.

Shannon: Oh, it’s honestly just fine. But I better get back to things. Thanks for the nut offer though.

Sally: WAIT, don’t go!

Shannon: I’m standing out here in my NIGHTIE, woman, and you’re still bothering me? GIT OUTTA ‘ERE!

Narrator: that gave Sally her signal to leave. A policeman, standing across the road of the empty peaceful little neighborhood Shannon lived in, raised his arm, which gave Sally the Nut Seller her signal to leave. She worked for him.

Shannon: Finally.

Narrator: she wobbled back inside in her nightie.

4

8 o’clock interview…right back at ya! With Gern Shredby, host, and…GIRL OF THE HOOD…!!!!!!

Host: well, hellooo, GOTH. It’s so nice to see you again. Can you tell us about how you kept the roof over your family’s heads?

GOTH: Well, I dealt, ya know? This was my life—the path I had chosen, I might add, I CHOSE IT—I had an adorable 2 year old daughter to look after, and I wasn’t about to let her down. So, I found a job, paid my taxes, washed the dishes, got food to my sweet cheek’s mouth, and did the laundry and all that grownup stuff.

Host: WOW! But you’re only 15. How does this feel for you?

GOTH: I dealt with it, like I said before. I SANG while I did my chores. I HUMMED as I fed my dear tootsie pop.

Host: Ha, nice nickname. Now tell us, how did you keep clothes on you? How did you feed YOU?

GOTH: well, AS I SAID BEFORE, I got a job to earn money, I threw the ball over the fence when my courage came to me. That ball marked failure, marked my past life, and I was ready to lead a new one. I threw it over the fence.

Host: you are smart, Girl of the Hood. Now, tell us, one guest submitted a question to you: what was your name at birth?

GOTH; sweet cheeks, I ain’t got no birth certificate from when I was 0 no more. I was reborn again when I was 14 and a half, ya got me? I redid my life. I am “Girl of the Hood” now, now and forever.

Host: ooookay. And thank you, GOTH, for yet another great interview! Good bye, guests! And rejoin us THIS WEEKEND! Abc news, 8’clock.

END OF INTERVIEW

 

5

“Mommy,” said a little girl in a nearby town, opening a hard-looking biography with a picture of a confident looking young lady on the cover. “What is this biography? Can you read it to me? Pleeease?”

“Well, alright, if you insist,” Mommy agreed. She opened the book, and the girl on the cover story’s began.

The Beginning

 

Geneva Lucas Toshbawn was born on September 4, 1997. She was raised into a family of gooey-gooey white people, after her birth mother, a black, gave her up for adoption. She was raised in this household until when she was about 14, she put on her favorite purple top-hat and said, “This ain’t the place for me”, and ran away. Not before throwing a red ball that marked her old life with the sharpie signatures of her white people family over the fence, which hit a African-American 10-year-old boy in the face. She didn’t even to stop to say sorry or nothin’Jesus. She ran, Jesus, she ran…until something stopped her.

“W-w-owww…” she recited. What she stopped at was…yes, she had ran into a hurtful pole.

“HOLY CRAP!” she then yelled, and carried on with her voyage/journey, or whatever you want to call it. A policeman, Jerry Dubois, found her, and questioned her about all sorts of things.

“Why did you run away?”

“’Cause I wanted to.”

“Were you using drug abuse or were your parents abusing you?”

“HELLLL no!”

“Oooookay,” the policeman had said. Policeman had heard these words before. “Well then, where are you running to now?”

She had shrugged. “I don’t know. Actually, I do know. To a new life.”

With that, the policeman took Geneva into his home. He kept her there, feeding her and taking care of her, for a month. Geneva called him her, instead of second dad, her “first dad”. But then Geneva was ready to leave there too.

She ran, Lord Jesus, she ran…until another policeman stopped her. Sweet JESUS!!!!!!! She cried in her mind, she recites.

But this policeman, she ran as fast as her feet could carry her into an alley. In this alley, she became pregnant. At 14 years old. She found a job at a pizza place, ‘Dewey’s Pizza Palace’, where she got 44 bucks a day. She returned home each day, with a big belly. She saved up. Then, 9 months later and nearing her 15th birthday, it happened. She had a baby. A baby girl that she named “Shanikwa”. She was an adorable dark-skinned babe, and by the time she was 1 year old and Geneva was 15, Geneva put her hair in pigtails. She fed her baby girl, she did. She raised her well, she did.

Now let’s zoom back a bit. After she threw the ball over the fence, she yelled to the world: “I AM GIRL OF THE HOOD!” and that’s what she was from that day on. No more Geneva for her. So I will call her GOTH for the rest of the biography, which stands for Girl of the Hood, of course.

During this hard but spiritual and finding her new self time, GOTH was happy. She was a new person with a baby girl, on her own, but she was. She didn’t feel as she had messed her life up, she felt as if she had made it BETTER.

And to this day, Girl of the Hood is interviewed, and known all throughout the city.

6

“Gee, Momma, a lot happened in Geneva’s life.”

“Yes, honey, it’s a fascinating story, isn’t it? And remember, she’s called ‘”Girl of the Hood’” now.”

“Oh, yeah. I forgot.”

The little girl began sucking on her thumb. Then she stood straight up on the lime green couch she was laying on. “Momma, I GOT IT! I wanna meet her, Momma, I do!!”

Momma laughed. “Well, we’ll have to see about that, honey. I don’t know if that can be arranged.”
“Well can you try, Mommy?”

Mommy/Momma sighed. “Well, alright. I will try. But that’s all. I cannot predict the outcome, dear.”

“Ok…” the little girl said distantly, but she wasn’t really in that world right now. She was having a long, nice daydream of her shaking Girl of the Hood’s hand. It would happen. She just knew it.

 

7

“Dang, girl, git in yo bed!” a teen mom said firmly but kindly to her 2-year-old daughter. “C’mon, now, c’mon…”

“Alwight, Momma, alwight! B-but…”

The little girl’s lip trembled. “But what, sweet-pumpkin-pie?”

“I-I scared.”

“Why you scared, lil’ girl? Tell yo momma. She hear for y’all.”

“I-I w-want Daddy…” she burst into tears.

“Oh, sweet suga. Your father was not a good person. That’s why I ditched him…raised you on my own, Lord ‘elp me. You should be thankful, lord Jesus help me, thankful.”

She added, “How do y’all even remember Daddy? He held you once when you were born, but that was it. Y’all can’t even remember such early memories.”

“Yeah…y-yeah I can,” the 2-year-old girl said. A tear rolled down her cheek.

“I am tellin’ you, suga[r], you would NOT miss ‘im if you actually knew ‘im! Now go to sleep, my sweet!”

Yes. The mother is Girl of the Hood, and her daughter was Shanikwa, whom she birthed when she was almost 15.

Shanikwa crawled into her pile of blankets in her comfy attic room with pink wallpaper, but not before asking one more question. “B-but then M-mommy…w-why did you make me wif him?”

G.O.T.H. looked at her in surprise. “Suga, where did you learn such things? This ain’t good, that stuff in yo head at such an early age.”

Shanikwa shrugged. “Don’t matter…” she said in her cute early Geddo accent, taking after her mother. “I just wanna know da answew!”

G.O.T.H. sighed. “Look, sweet cheeks, baby girl, my tootsie; I made you with Daddy ‘cause…’cause I made a wrong choice, ok, baby girl? He was pushy but cute. So I got pregnant with him. But he was not a nice man. Er…teenager, really. He was a gangster. Now go to sleep, sweet cheeks.”

Shanikwa went to sleep, dreaming of Daddy.

8

Narrator: a mailwoman was making her way down a row of little brick houses to deliver things.

Hillary (Mailwoman): whistle while you work, doodle loot loot loot loot loo…

Narrator: she stopped at house 205 and knocked on the door since the person occupying that house did not have a doorbell. A blond 5-year-old girl came to the door in pigtails tied with pink ribbons. Next to the girl was a boy with flaming red hair, about the same size, but looked a bit older. They stared at the mailwoman.

Hillary: Uhhh…hi, kids! Is your mother or father home? I have something to deliver.

Girl: What are you delivering?

Hillary: Oh, um…a bag of frozen peas, some icecream, and a…a get well card for I believe, your father.

Boy: Yeah, he’s pretty sick.

Hillary: I’m so sorry, but…are they home?

Boy: Maybe. Lemme see. MOMMMMM!!!!!

Mom from Upstairs: What do you want, Lenard?

Hillary gulped quickly and shoved the ordered stuff in Lenard and his little sister’s hands.

Hillary: I’m sorry, kids, I didn’t want to bother your family…now just take those and deliver them to your parents. Now good-bye!

Girl: Wait! Hey, wait! We never learned your name, and you never learned mine! That’s important!

Hillary sighs but gives in.

Hillary: Well, alright, why not. My name is Hillary.

Girl: Mmm ‘kay…mine is Katie.

Hillary: Nice to meet you, Katie and Lenard! See you later!

Katie and Lenard: BYE!!!!!

Narrator: So Hillary shut the door of that house and moved on to the next. She rung the doorbell and someone opened the door.

Hillary: Hey! I have more mail for you!

Shannon: What is it now?

Hillary: it’s…a bag of popcorn. And this time it has a note stuck to it. I believe it says…’from your secret admirer”.

Shannon: Ooh la la, someone loves me! Well, thanks, Hill-Bil—I mean Hillary. See you next time, good-bye!

Narrator: Hillary shut the door and walked into the morning sun. She wiped a bead of sweat from her forehead. Shannon was always the last house to deliver to, so finally, finally!, she was done.

Hillary (muttering): Now I can get some ice-cream from Jerry’s.

9

I like the flower in your hair, Joe.

Well thanks, Hillary. I’m a bit weird, aren’t I?

Yeah, I suppose…but you know what, Joe? I like it. I like it a lot.

Well, Hillary, what else can I say? Thank you again. A lot, too.

Your welcome. Now, Joe…I have an idea for what we can do on our 2-week break.

Sure. Talk away.

I’m thinking we can go to that water-park, ya know, the one that just opened. Maybe that’s a little childish, but it sounds fun, don’t you think?

Yeah, of course! Besides, we’re only 16! We gotta enjoy life as the “kids” we are!

Ya know what, you’re right, Joe. Ok, how about Tuesday, 8’o clock?

Awesome. See ya then. Oh, and Hillary…?

Yes, Joe. What is it?

Here’s a free pecan ice-cream cone.

[quick peck on cheek from Hillary]

You’re the best, Carlson—I mean Joe. You really are.

10

Hillary had a problem. Two boyfriends at once is not always a great thing. There was Joe, from the ice-cream shop, whom, yes, they were just friends. But Hillary had a feeling Joe was going to ask her out at the waterpark…and they someone flirted a lot. And then, there was Carlson, whom yesterday Hillary had accidentally called Joe. Carlson was Hillary’s official boyfriend. They had been dating for a 6 months now, they’d gone to the movies, they’d kissed, they’d gotten presents for each other on birthdays and Valentine’s Day. But Hillary also really liked Joe. She decided to see how things went at the waterpark.

11

SCENE I-WATERPARK

Hillary arrived at the waterpark. She was wearing her favorite purple bikini with white polka-dots. She looked around for Joe, and then she saw him—in a green and red striped swim trunks. They ran up to each other.

Joe: (looking Hillary up and down): Hey, you look…gooood.

Hillary (blushing): Thanks. You do too. (trying to change the subject) So do you want to go on a waterslide? How about the biggest one?

Joe: Sure. But first, Hilly…

Hillary: (she only let Joe call her that) What is it, Joe?

Joe: Well…I’ve been wanting to ask you something.

Hillary: I’m listening.

Joe: It’s just that…I’ve been having feelings for you lately. Not just friendship…I feel as if our “friendship” has evolved into something more. And I want to make it official.

Hillary (grinning and thinking to herself, ‘I was RIGHT!’): I think so too. Well, Joe, will you go out with me?

Joe: Hell yes I will.

They had a nice long kiss, right there in front of the waterslides.

A little girl with stringy blond hair and twinkling blue eyes who looked about 5 and a brother a little older…Katie and Lenard!...stopped walking to the waterslide and yelled: “Ewwwwww!” But Hillary glanced over, saw it was them, and just smiled.

Joe: Time for water-slides.

Hillary: Oh yes.

They walked up the stairs to the top of the slide. There was a female life-guard in a bikini with platinum blond hair standing there. For a moment, Joe stared at her butt. But only for a while. Hillary sorta jabbed him in the stomach and whispered: “ME? Remember? ME!!” and Joe immediately snapped out of it.

Pretty Lifeguard: Hey, guys. You can go 2 at a time, or on your own. What would you like?

Hillary and Joe (looking at each other): Umm…2 at a time, please.

They grinned at each other.

Pretty Lifeguard: Well, get your booties on the raft then! (laughing)

Joe got on the raft first, and immediately lifted Hillary right onto his lap, her raven black hair nustling his face.

Pretty Lifeguard: Mmm ‘kay, ready? Settie…SPAGHETTI!

She sent them shooting down the dark slide. Joe and Hillary screamed the whole way—well, actually, just Hillary—but laughing at the same time. Joe wrapped his arms around Hillary and shouted, “It’s gonna be OKAY!!!”

They shot out of the slide into the waiting water, laughing and smiling. And then, right there on the raft, they kissed again and hugged. But Hillary didn’t know someone—Carlson—was nearby. And he was watching.

He walked up to them.

Carlson: Well, well, well. If it isn’t my um…who I thought was my girlfriend!

Hillary (gulping, her stomach getting all churny): Oh! Um, hey, Carlson! I didn’t know you’d be here…

Carlson: Yeah, you sure didn’t, since I find you kissing someone. That’s not me, let me add.

Hillary (starting to get courage…) Sorry, Carlson.

Carlson: Yeah, you SHOULD BE!

Hillary: No, I mean a different kind. I mean sorry, Carlson—it’s over.

Carlson (in shock and sorta tears): I…I can’t believe it, Hillary! Dating for 6 months now…you…you beast!!!

Carlson ran away.

Joe (kissing Hillary on the cheek): Sorry, I…I didn’t know you had another boyfriend.

Hillary: No, Joe, please don’t worry about it. I’m sorry I didn’t tell you. I was getting ready to call it off with him. I’m with you now.

Joe: That’s right.

12

Narrator: very nearby, G.O.T.H. and her 2 year old daughter, Shanikwa, were going down a very small baby slide, GOTH holding her daughter on her lap so she didn’t fall.

GOTH: Isn’t this FUN, baby girl?

Shanikwa (giggling): YEAAAH!

GOTH: You wanna come here again, baby girl?

Shanikwa: You BETCHA!

Narrator: Girl of the Hood laughed. All of a sudden Shanikwa spotted a cute blond boy and a pretty girl with dark hair. They were walking together out of the water-park, with their arms around each other.

Shanikwa (pointing): Was that you and Dadda, Momma?

GOTH: Oh lordie, Shanikwa, I suppose for a few months after he got me pregnant. But now, hell no!

Narrator: you see, GOTH wasn’t afraid to use these words in front of Shanikwa. She figured she’d learn ‘em someday anyway. All of a sudden, the teenage couple Shanikwa had been pointing at ran up to them.

Dark Haired Girl: OH MY GOD! Are you…Girl of the Hood?

GOTH: Yes, I am Girl of the Hood, y’all betcha. You some fans?

Blond Boy: Oh yes, we are. We are SUCH big fans!! You’re like our…idol!

GOTH: Well, that really touches my heart, it do. But go get your pop-tarts or ice-cream or whatever in that café over there. Y’all got better things to do than talk to Girl of the Hood. You know tomorrow, Wednesday, if you come to Apartment 4B I’ll be standing at the door giving autographs and shaking people’s hands. It starts at 6 o’clock in the mornin’ and ends at 8’o clock at night. Y’all know I got a lot of fans.

Dark Haired Girl: REALLY? OH MY GOD, you can expect US to be there!

GOTH: Mmm ‘kay, ain’t that wonderful. Now carry on. Nice meetin’ y’all.

Dark Haired Girl and her BF: You too!

13

Who do you think my secret admirer could be, Hillary?

 

I have to say I really don’t know, Shay. I mean…it could be anyone, if you think about it.

 

I have been thinking about it, Hillary. For 2 days. It couldn’t be anyone, actually. It could only be a boy I know. Hmm…let’s name all the boys I know.

 

Ok, well…there’s Roger, right? And Joseph, and Carrie…wait, no, that’s Joseph’s big sister. Not a boy. Pardon me. Um, there’s Kyle, and Lance. That’s all I can think of right now though.

 

I think it might be Carrie. I think she’s…lesbian.

 

Wait, what? Seriously? Oh, well then, maybe it pays off I accidentally brought her up after all. Why do you think she’s lesbian, though?

 

Ha…remember that time we went to Joseph’s house and she came to the door in a golden crown and a Tinkerbell outfit? And she had tons of eyeliner, and we looked at her like, ‘what the heck?’ and she was just eyed us with that crabby look and said, ‘It’s Halloween.’ And we cracked up, ‘cause no…it wasn’t! It was NOVEMBER 31st!

 

Yeah, I remember. But, Shay, I asked you a question.

 

Oh, sorry. I completely spaced out with that hilarious memory. What was your question?

 

I said why do you think she’s lesbian?

 

I don’t know, Hillary. I just sense it in the way she looks at me. And…Hillary? Promise me you won’t get mad at me when I say this…

 

Shannon, we’ve been best friends since like, forever. Why would I get mad at you? But yeah, go ahead.

 

I think I’m lesbian too.

 

That’s cool with me, Shay! Whatever you want to be, I like it! I actually think that’s awesome. Ya know…being different.

 

Yeah. So…you’re really okay with it? Do you think I should come out? Like, tell Carrie?

 

Yeah I think you should, privately. But, Shannon, I wish the best for you; but, don’t expect a “I love you too, Shannon!”. You never know. But, yes, I advise you to try.

 

Okay. Thanks, Hillary. And…Hillary?

 

Yes, Shay?

 

I…I love you.

 

I love you too. So much.

 

14

KNOCK KNOCK KNOCK.

Carrie: O-oh…hey, Shannon! Are you here to see Joseph?

Shannon (taking a deep breath): No, Carrie. Actually…I’m here to see you. I need to talk to you about something.

Carrie: Wha? Me? Um, okay. Up in my room, maybe?

Shannon: Yeah, that sounds best.

Narrator: Carrie and Shannon, in tense silence, walked up to Carrie’s room. They sat on her bed.

Carrie: Ok, so…spit it out. You like me, don’t you. You got my notes.

Shannon gasped.

Shannon: (in shock) it…i-i-it was…you? It was you all along?

Carrie: Yes, it was. I like you too, Shay.

Shannon: Oh my god, I’m so glad! I was worried you’d say no!

The tense silence between them broke.

Carrie: Yeah, well, you’re in luck. You wanna go out, Shannon? You’re hot.

Shannon: Yes I do!

15

joe+me=love34: wait, she seriously asked u out?

Shayshay123: yeah. isnt that cray-cray?

Joe+me=love34: ya but thats AWSUM, gf!

Shayshay123: i no right! Carrie and i r officially dating. & my parents know, so…dont fret J

Joe+me=love34: did u kiss yet?

Shayshay123: yes, just yesterday, at deweys pizza palace but hey I just noticed, hillary, whos joe? Ur chat name is dif

Joe+me=love34: oh. Well, gud news, shay! I got a boyfriend too!

Shayshay123: awsum but wut about Carlson

Joe+me=love34: I broke up with him when joe and I went to the waterpark

Shayshay123: wo ive been missin out on UR love news!! J

Joe+me=love34: ikr srry gtg see u 2morrow

Shayshay123: k bye see u then

16

This Letter is Addressed To: Girl of the Hood

Dear Girl of the Hood,

Hi. My name is Dana and I would lovvvee to meet you. I heard you have a thing going on tomorrow, and I would like to come. I really admire you. My mom read me your biography and I think you’re really brave. Go you! I think you’re awesome for starting a new life and giving yourself a new name. You are truly, awesome.

Yours Truly,

Dana (your biggest fan)

17

Girl of the Hood chuckled as she set down the fancy parchment with fancy cursive ink. “Man, a lot of people love me,” she said to her Shanikwa, who was sitting beside her sucking her pinky and with the other hand, eating yogurt.

“Shanikwa, do you think she’s my biggest fan? I got a lot of ‘biggest fans’, don’t you think? Those 2 teens at the waterpark, her…ooh, I can’t go through them all.”

Shanikwa looked up at her in surprise.

“I’m just kidding, baby girl,” she said, chuckling again. “I was pretending to be self-centered, can’t y’all tell? I thought y’all knew me better ‘dan that.”

Shanikwa looked up and said her first best grammarily correct sentence. “Well, apparently I don’t, because I could not tell you were being sarcastic, Mother.”

“Whoa, my tootsie pop, what has gotten into you lately? Are you feeling alright? Do y’all got a stomache? A temp?”

Shanikwa shrugged sadly.

“Baby girl, you ain’t being yo usual self. I gon’ check.”

Girl of the Hood fetched the cheap therometer she had bought at Walmart and slipped it into Shanikwa’s ear. It beeped and the screen read: 107 degrees.

“Oh, lordie Lu, sweet Jesus me, girl, you got a temp! That’s for sure!”

“That explains it,” the poor little girl muttered sadly.

“Go lay down in yo bed, sweetie, before y’all faint.”

All of a sudden there was a knock at the door. Thinking it was the line of fans, Girl of the Hood quickly went to the door in her glitterly blue hoops and grey dress. “Well helllooo…” she began saying, but quickly saw it wasn’t her fans, but…no one else but “Daddy” as Shanikwa refered to him.

Girl of the Hood’s eyes grew dark. She gritted her teeth and balled her fists. “What are you doing here, Matt? Git outta here. NOW.”

But Matt (or Daddy)’s eyes were not dark. “No, please, Girl of the Hood. I came here to apologize.”

“A year later?” G.O.T.H. yelled.

“I’m so, so sorry, G. O. T. H. I was stupid. I am foolish. I was mean. But I am willing, now, to come raise our baby girl with you.”

“Oh, that’s right, you don’t even know OUR DAUGHTER’S NAME!!! ‘Cause I kicked y’all OUT after her BIRTH!!!!!! Her name is Shanikwa, mister. And you have no business here no longer. I don’t care if you want to start over, if you want to apologize and raise her with me. The door is not open for you no more. Now good-bye, Matt.”

“C’mon, baby, please…” Matt begged.

No, Matt, no. Your time with me ended a year ago.”

GOTH shut the door and locked it so Matt couldn’t get back in. She would unlock it as soon as she heard an impatient knock from her fans, of course.

18

“Omg, Shannon…that cheetah print tank-top looks sun hot! on you.”

“Thanks, dude, but don’t think about it. I already got a girlfriend.”

“Wait, what?....w-what the f—”

“Yeah, you heard me”—now a crowd of girls and boys were starting to gather ‘round and Shannon got louder—“I got a GIRLFRIEND!”

“You mean boyfriend, right?”

“No, Jay. Are you…deaf? For the 3rd time now, I got a GIRLFRIEND!”

Jay laughed. “You’ve got to be kidding me.”

“Do I sound like I’m kidding? No. Oh look, there’s my girl!”

Carrie was walking down the hallway of the high school towards Shannon. Shannon was almost 18, and Carrie was 18. But they were both in their senior year of high school.

“Hey, girllll!” Shannon drawled, putting an arm around Carrie.

“Hey, hottie,” Carrie said, giving her the “sexy” eye.

And right there, in public, in front of everyone—they kissed.

19

“Fans, fans, DO come in!” Girl of the Hood joked, laughing at herself. She waved herself cool with a fan.

“W-we can come in?” a female fan asked.

“Oh no, I was only jokin’. Autograph, sweet cheeks? Hand shake? Or both, pumpkin pie?”

The fan looked confused, but wanted to impress her fan. “Uhhh…both.”

“Sure thing!” Girl of the Hood shook the fan’s hand, and wrote her autograph on the girl’s piece of paper:

Girl of the Hood

The fans kept pouring and pouring into Girl of the Hood’s little house. She saw the teen couple from the water-park, Dana, the little girl who wrote the letter and stated herself as “your biggest fan!” and a lot of people.

By 8 o’clock, the crowds stopped coming, and exhausted but still her Getto confident self, Girl of the Hood shut the door once and for all.

“Bed time, sweet cheeks,” the exhausted teen momma said to her baby girl.

20

“Wasn’t it SO cool to meet her in person? I mean like, seriously!”

“It was, I’ll admit. I was shocked. She looked different not on TV. Did you think so?”

“Yeah, I guess. She was pretty though, wasn’t she? With her beautiful caramel skin, her straightened black hair that fell past her shoulders, and her eyes looked so kind, yet so fierce…and I loved her hoop earrings. And the grey dress was cute.”

“Yeah.”

“Oh, Joe.” Hillary giggled and grabbed Joe’s shirt collar; pulling him towards her. They kissed and giggled and it grew into a passionate make out session on Hillary’s couch.

“Hillary? Joe? Where are you???” Hillary heard her Grandma Davis calling them. They heard her footsteps and immediately got out of their…erm…awkard position.

“Hey, children,” Grandma Davis said. “Dinner time. We’re going to your favorite pizza place…what is it? ‘David Pizza Castle’?”

Hillary stifled a laugh. “Uh, no Grams…it’s ‘Dewey’s Pizza Palace.”

“Ah! That’s right. And I thought Joe should come too…celebrating your new dating.”

Joe and Hillary glanced at each other. Their eyes lit up. “Oh! Yeah! Well, that would be great…” Joe said. “Can I just go change into a more elegant outfit?”

“Oh, there’s no need for that,” Grandma Davis assured them. She waved her hand a little impatiently. “Just come onnn, let’s go have some PIZZA!” She said ‘pizza’ in her best Italian accent she could. Once again, Hillary stifled a laugh and glanced at Joe, who was doing the same. Oh, Grandma Davis, Hillary was thinking.

21

“Ya know, Dana, I’ve been thinkin’. I think, sweetheart, we should send you to a real school next year. For 1st grade. Your #1 start…!”

Dana did not laugh, or even crack a smile. A tear fell. “W-what? No, I don’t want to! No, no, no, Mommy, you teach me well enough! I REFUSE!”

“Now, Dana, I want you to be a little more open to Momma. Let me explain why.”

Dana crossed her arms.

“Ok. Hear we go. Dana, you are autistic. I’ve home-schooled you my whole life, but it’s summer now, and I’m thinking in the fall, we should send you to Hipder Kai Elementary. Does that really sound so bad? You’ll meet new kids, learn new things…you’ll have more fun experiences. Does that make sense?”

Dana put her head on her mother’s lap, feeling safe there. “No, Mommy, no…” she muttered softly, and then dozed off from all the strain of worry.

22

“Really? Grandma Davis offered? Wow, that’s a first. Usually your Grams is as stubborn as the sun. Always cooking at home.”

“Yeah.”

“But anyway…how was it? Was it awkward? Fun? Did you see anyone you knew there?”

“Um, it was pretty much just a relaxing dinner of pizza. Nothing more.”

“Well, that’s great! Me and Carrie’s dating thing has been going great. We’re both open about it at school…everywhere.”

“Cool.”

“Hey, Hillary…you seem down.”

“Shannon I don’t have time to talk about it. Here’s your mail. I’m leaving now.”

“Wait, but Hilla—”

Shannon heard her oak wood door slam shut. What was it with Hillary the past few days?

23

“No, Mom, no. You can’t be serious. No, no, no. You’re crazy.”

“Hillary, you have to learn to accept your mom’s decisions. It’s decided, and there’s no stopping it! My doctor, Dr. Sheen, gave me pills to take just in case I’m a bit old for it! But, deal with it, Hillary, I’m pregnant! I am very upset. VERY upset. By your reaction. Go to your room.”

“C’mon, Mom. Aren’t we a little too old for this? I’m 16, Mom. You really send me to my room these days—”

“GO! I said! GO!”

Hillary rushed up to her room and slammed the door closed. She sat on her purple bedspread and layed on her back and stared at the green polka-dotted ceiling. She reflected on the situation.

Her mind was going crazy.

Mom CAN’T be having a baby.

She’s crazy.

She’s too old.

What if there’s a birth contraction with the baby?

Is it a girl or boy?

I don’t need a sibling.

Yes I do.

No I don’t, Mom’s too old anyway!

How will get to know her, if I won’t see much of her since I’m in high school and she’s a baby!!?

Why is Mom so stupid sometimes?

 

24

“Yes, of course. Uh-huh, no problem. Don’t worry about it. Ok, you too. No. Yes. Thanks again. Ok, bye.”

“Who was that, Mom?” Shannon asked her mom, who had just hung up the phone. She was hoping it had been Hillary or Hillary’s mom.

“It was your social worker at school. She’s hoping you can show around, help out, get to know a new student that will be coming here tomorrow, starting at Oak Leaf High. You can do that, right?”

“Um, sure, but why is she asking me to do this?”

She lowered her voice. “Well, the girl’s parents both died this summer. She’s sad but trying to get over it. And Ms. Johnson wants to make sure poor Lily has friends.”

“Her name is Lily?”

“Yes. So you agree?”

“Yeah, sure.”

25

“Hillary, Hillary!” Shannon ran to her best friend at her locker. Hillary was almost 2 years younger than Shannon, but they still saw each other pretty often at the high school.

“Yeah? What?”

“Hi! I’ve been missing you lately.”

“Mmm.”

“What does ‘mmm’ mean?”

“Ya know what, Shannon? Can you leave me alone? I don’t need to talk to you right now. I have more important things to do—”

Hillary began walking away, but Shannon grabbed her shoulder. “No, Hillary, please! I’m sorry I upset you! I just feel as if you’ve been ignoring, avoiding me lately. Can you tell me what’s going on?”

“Hmm, let’s see. My oldie mom decided she wants to have a baby.”

Shannon’s mouth dropped open. “Really? That’s awesome, I’m so happy for you! Is she pregnant yet? You’re so lucky to get a little sibling!”

“Yeah, she’s pregnant. And no, it’s not awesome at all. Let me cut to the chase: it sucks.

“Why does it suck? Don’t you want a sibling?”

“That’s what I thought. I don’t need to talk to you. You won’t understand.”

Hillary walked away, and Shannon, exasperated, stood there staring after upset Hillary in her purple plaid shirt, jeans, and blue beret.

                                                ***

“Oh, there you are.” Shannon stuck out her hand. “Hi, I’m Shannon.”

“Hi, I’m Lily.”

“Nice to meet you. So, you’re new here?”

“Well, no, I’m 16 years old. Can’t you see I’m a sophomore?”

Shannon turned her head sideways. “Uh, what?” She decided to let it go. “So, would you like a tour?”

“Oh no, I already know my way around.”

“Um, ok then, would you like to walk with me to lunch?”

“Well…I think so. I don’t know if you’re trustworthy or not, though.”

Shannon threw her hands in the air. “Alright, I give up, Lily!” But then she remembered both her parents had died over the summer. She lowered her voice. “Sorry. I didn’t mean to let my temper rise like that.”

“It’s alright. I understand. I didn’t mean to offend you when you asked that. I was just answering.”

“Yeah, ok,” Shannon said, wiping an unexpected tear from her cheek.

“You ok?”

“Yes, I’m fine,” Shannon said quickly, turning away, embarrassed.

“Well, c’mon, let’s walk to the cafeteria! Or to ‘lunch’ as you call it!”

Shannon agreed. She was weirded out by Lily, though. Why was she so literal? And so snappy?

“I like your shirt,” Shannon told Lily, even though she didn’t at all. It was really sparkly, and it said: ROXY. But she wanted to compliment Lily and make her feel good.

“It’s not a shirt, it’s a tank-top,” Lily snapped, and then walked faster.

“Oh, well, sorry?” Shannon was confused. Why was Lily so rude?

She decided to change the subject. “Soo…are you going to join anything this year? Any clubs, or sports?”

“Yeah. Chess.”

“That’s all?”

“Yes. I only stated one thing, didn’t I?”

“Yeah,” Shannon muttered. Why did stupid Ms. Johnson have to ‘assign’ her to this rude-a-tood girl? She didn’t want to hang out with her!

“Actually, also cheerleading. Chess and cheerleading. THE TWO C’S!!!!!!!” Lily yelled and started laughing this really weird strong loud laugh, just over a little joke like ‘the two c’s’ which Shannon didn’t even find that funny.

“Ha ha, yeah,” Shannon said unenthusiastically. She felt bad for Lily, but she was so rude!

“So um, do you take the bus or do your paren—your guardian pick you up?”

“First of all, I don’t have a guardian, smartsicle. Second of all, my parents perished in a fire. Third of all, I bike home.”

“Look, Lily, I really feel for you, don’t get me wrong, but…why are you being so snappish and annoying to me? I’m trying to welcome you here.”

Lily’s eyes rolled back into her head until they turned white, and she fell over on the floor, not an eyelid moving.

“Um, is she ok?” Then, more panicked. “OH MY GOD, LILY, are you ok?!!!” Then very panicked as she felt her heart-beat, and didn’t feel it beating. She ran to get a janitor. “She just fell over and her eyes rolled back into her head and I can’t feel a heart-beat!”

The janitor looked at her like she was stupid. “Then she’s dead.”

“Well, can we take her to the hospital or something?!” Shannon cried, unable to believe the janitor was reacting like this.

The janitor shrugged and said, “Okay, fine.” He pulled out his phone and dialed 911. He explained the situation, and before Shannon knew it, Lily was rushed to the hospital.

26

“Hey, honey, how was your day?” Shannon’s mom asked as she got home.

“Not good at all.”

“Why?”

“Let’s see, Hillary’s ignoring me, and the new girl Lily is really rude and then she fell over and her eyes rolled all the way back and she was rushed to the hospital.”

“What? Oh my god, oh my god! That’s horrible! Wait—I recognize that story…it was in the news today…oh gosh, oh gosh…”

“What, Mom? What?”

“Well, you see…it was on the news today, and, er…she passed.”

“You mean to say…s-say…she died?”

“Yes.”

“But how?”

“They weren’t exactly sure, but they said something in her brain didn’t click and she was having trouble breathing.”

“That’s not good, but I…I feel so bad! She died right after I confronted her about being rude!”
“Oh, don’t feel bad, Shannon, you were just doing the right thing…”

27

“Sorry I wasn’t talking to you the other day.”

“Yeah.” Shannon’s hands were in her pockets, her miserable head staring at the floor.

“Do you forgive me?”

“Yeah.”

“So did you hear about that new girl who died yesterday? I can’t believe it! Isn’t it so horrible?”

“Yeah. It was all my fault.”

“Wait, what? Shay, what are you talking about?”

“All my fault, all my fault…” Shannon muttered.

Hillary started shaking Shannon’s shoulders. “Do…not…faint,” she said firmly. “And whatever happened, I’m sure it wasn’t your fault.”

“I was confronting her about being mean and then she just fell, right there, on the floor. She was dead.”

“Well, your body functions stop working has nothing to do with your actions. Unless of course, suicide. But Lily didn’t kill herself.”

“Yeah, I know.”

“Don’t feel bad!, Shay! It’s not your fault! Do you understand me, miss?”

“Yes,” Shannon said, stifling a giggle because sometimes Hillary could just be so funny when she acted like her mother.

“Ooh, you wanna laugh? You wanna laugh, baby girl?” Hillary was talking in a baby voice, squeezing Shannon’s cheeks and making funny faces.

Shannon couldn’t help cracking up. And Shannon went home happy that day.

28

MYSTERIOUS NEWS!!!!!! The Death of Lily Bonza, a former sophomore student at Oak Leaf High.

How and Why?

It is said that when Bonza was rushed to the hospital, they could not save her. Her heart had stopped beating because of her brain, the doctors said. Her brain had stopped working, therefore her heart stopped. This is a fatal tragedy, and we all can hope for the best resting in peace for Lily. Bless you, Lily. There is a memorial on Sunday, October 4. Please join us in the name of remembarance for Lily.

29

“Baby girl, eat these carrots. You gon’ thank me when you grow up to be ‘rong and ‘ealthy! You hear me, girl? Ya hear yo momma?”

But Shanikwa still shook her stubborn head.

Girl of the Hood put her hands on her hips. “Let’s put it this way, Stubborn Babe. If you eat 5 carrots, you get chocolate chip cookie dough. How does that sound?”

Shanikwa couldn’t resist. She squinted her eyes at Girl of the Hood and sighed her 2 year old sigh. Then she said, “Oh Mommy, y’all always know da ways to bwibe me, don’t you.”

Girl of the Hood’s eyes shined. “Y’all can bet I do, and I will forever. Even when you’re, what, 21, wanted to get married to a creep, and I bribe you with biscuits to not marry the dude. You know it will work.”

Shanikwa did not get the joke, but giggled anyway at Girl of the Hood’s use of language.

After Shanikwa ate 5 carrots and a huge helping of some dough, Girl of the Hood said, “Now let’s get that polka-dot purple dress on you, shall we.”

“NO! NO! NO!” Shanikwa screamed, kicking her feet like she was a baby again.

“YES! YES! YES!” Girl of the Hood screamed back, kissing Shanikwa’s forehead, but Shanikwa only shooed her away.

“C’mon now, girly, let’s go do this thing! Do it for yo Momma’s sake. Yo Momma has to do things she likes, too. Y’all don’t always get yo way, pumpkin pie. Now let’s go get that dress on.”

“And your little flower crown…!” Girl of the Hood added.

“Fine,” Shanikwa agreed reluctantly.

“You are just the little stubborn-one today, aren’t you?” Girl of the Hood said, puckering her lips.

30

“I threw a wish in the well, don’t ask me I’ll never tell, I looked to you as it felt, but no you’re in my way…your stare was holdin’, ripped jeans, skin was showin’, hot night, wind was blowin’…Where ya think you’re goin’ baby?! Hey, I just met you—and this is crazy!—but here’s my number…so call me maybe…”

“BRAVO!!!! WHOOP WHOOP!!!” Shannon whooped like crazy for her girlfriend Carrie. The high school was watching the Talent Show, which Carrie had signed up for to sing “Call me Maybe”. Shannon had to admit, Carrie had a great voice. And she also knew Hillary had signed up, but she had kept it a secret from her what she was doing; so Shannon was excited to find out.

“NEXT UP…YOU’LL FIND OUT!!” The announcer announced like he always did.

It sorta annoyed Shannon, but she also liked being surprised every time someone walked on stage.

This time, one of her friends Beatrice walked on, and did a dance routine. Then Joseph, then Josh, and then finally…!...Hillary! She clapped until her hands hurt and a teacher gave her a dirty look. Then she stopped.

Hillary walked on in a sparkly blue cocktail dress with no straps.

She grinned at the audience and then began doing a dance routine while singing Britney Spears. She sang the song “Toxic” and not only sang in her beautiful smooth voice, danced, but also flipped! Thankfully she had shorts under her dress and was wearing gym shoes.

Shannon was sad when Hillary’s was over, but she couldn’t believe it. She never knew Hillary could sing, could dance, and could do advanced gymnastics tricks so well? What the heck?

She decided to ask her afterwards how she learned.

                                                  ***

“Hillary, how did you know how to do all that stuff and I didn’t know?”

“Well, um…Lily taught me before she died. She was doing ‘talent show prep’ for me. She was a gymnast, singer, and dancer.”

“I didn’t know you guys were friends…”

“Yeah, we were. But I thought I should wait to tell you and let you recover about her death.”

“Yes, thanks Hill-Bill”—this one time, Hillary let her call her that—“you’re smart.”

31

 

“Look at the moon,” a boy with gelled back black hair said to a girl laying next to him in a grass intersection in the middle of the road. It was almost pitch black.

“I know…it’s beautiful, isn’t it?” she said, impressed.

“Just like you…” the boy complimented the girl.

The boy’s name was Carlson. And the girl’s name was Ivory.

“No, really, it’s fine! Yes, yes, I understand!”

“Ok, good. I’m sorry…I didn’t mean to hide things from you. I just didn’t want to hurt you and make you feel…ya know…even more guilty about her…her, erm, passing.”

“Yeah, no, I get it, I do.”

“Hug?”

“Yeah.”

They hugged each other tightly, and, since it was Friday, Shannon grinned, and said, “Barbara’s Coffee-Place?”

“Totally.”

They linked arms, Shay and Hill, Hillary and Shannon, and walked 3 blocks to their favorite coffee-shop. It was a cute little cozy place with couches, decks of cards, food and drinks, and of course…a fireplace. And Barbara, the owner of the shop, was also very friendly.

The bell jingled on the door as they walked in. “Aaah, I love that sound,” Hillary muttered.

Barbara heard her. “Oh, aren’t you girls kind. I love that sound too. It’s so great to see you hear!” Hillary had been deaf in sixth grade.

She winked.

“Yeah, we’re very glad to be here too!” Shannon added in a enthusiastic voice, misunderstanding Barbara’s use of language.

“So shall we find a seat, mate?” Hillary said in an Irish accent the best she could manage.

“Yeah, mate, o’course.”

They immediately glanced at their usual seat—the purple couch on the left of the fireplace. No one had ever been sitting there before them, but now as they looked, there was a teenage girl sitting there that looked about their age. They growled under their breath, but then Hillary sighed.

“She got there first.”

“Well…there are no other seats available. Let’s just ask her to move to a comfy nice little table? Heh, heh…”

Here Hillary laughed at Shannon’s sarcasm. But she did what Hillary suggested.

She tapped the girl on the shoulder. She spun around. “Yes?” she said with innocent but fierce blinking blue eyes.

“Ummm…we were wondering if you could move to a table. We just…erm…really, really like this particular couch.”

“Really? That’s so cool! It’s my favorite too! I love how it’s like, by the fire and everything! And it just feels sooo cozy as you’re sipping your hot chocolate or whatever. You have good taste.”

“Ummm…yeah.” Shannon was taken back the girl’s reaction. “So are you gonna move?”

The girl smiled. “Well, no, of course not! It’s my favorite, remember? But I’d LOVE to see you guys here next time!”

“Ok.” Shannon made a face at Hillary and they reluctantly slunked to one of the tables by the…freezer, of all things, that kept the smoothies cold.

“Looks like someone stole our seat,” Shannon muttered under her breath.

But just then, the girl came running back over. “Hey, I…I forgot to ask! What are your guys’s names?”

“I’m Hillary,” Hillary said, pointing to herself, and glancing at Shannon, she said, “and that’s Shannon.”

“Ooh, nice names. Mine is Ivory.”

Shannon wasn’t a big fan of the girl for taking their seat, but she couldn’t help saying, “Oooh la la, what a pretty name!”

“Thanks.”

Then Ivory walked away and flipped her hair over her shoulder. Hillary and Shannon both noticed how pretty she was.

32

“But, no, what, no, I wont believe no you cant be serious no this isn’t happening…”

“Calm down. Calm down. Everything’s going to be ok. All you have is a fractured knee, I bet. Just calm down…”

                                              ***

“Whoever carries my crutches up the stairs gets 2 starbursts at lunch today!!” Hillary shouted out to Shannon, Beatrice, and Josh.

“Hmm…well, well, well,” Josh said. “I’ll do it!”

“Going once, going twice—”

“No, I will!” Beatrice raised her hand quickly.

“Going once, going tw—”

Before Hillary could even finish ‘twice’, Shannon said, “I won’t do it,” quietly. So Hillary told Bea and Joshua to do rock-paper-scissors. Josh won and carried them up the stairs.

33

Green, Joe, green?”

“You know I’ve always been crazy.”

“Yeah, but I didn’t think this much.”

“Ha, ha, ha. Ok, well, I’m dying my hair green.”

Hillary shrugged. “Okkk…but when you say, ‘oh shoot, it looks horrible!’ in the mirror don’t say I didn’t warn you.”

They laughed, because they both knew green would probably look cute, and represent Joe’s awesome crazy personality as it should be.

“You’re crazy too! to go sledding down the biggest hill in Greenburg, our whole city, and you fractured your leg!”

“Yeah, I know,” Hillary admitted, rolling her eyes at Joe. “But my hair was still black as I fled down the hill.”

“And you’re also even more crazy, because the hill didn’t have snow. It’s October.”

“Speaking of October, are you going to Lily’s funeral?”

“Wha? Who’s Lily?”
“Oh, right, sorry! I forgot, we don’t go to the same school.”

“Yeah. But who’s Lily? Was she one of your friends?”

“Yes,” Hillary said quietly. “I’m going.”

“I can come to support you!” Joe offered.

“You didn’t even know her,” Hillary snapped, sniffling.

“You’re right,” Joe said immediately. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to upset you.”

34

“Shannon, meet Joe. Joe, meet Shannon.”

“Hi!”

“Hey.”

“Ok, bye Joe! See you soon.” Hillary quickly kissed her boyfriend on the cheek and headed to the brick building with linked arms with Shay. Hillary was wearing a long black strapless dress, while Shannon was wearing a short blue cocktail dress that stopped above her knees.

As soon as they got inside, they were overcome with sadness. They saw a few people from their school, a fat lady with her toddler, but that was it.

“Where are all Lily’s relatives?” Hillary whispered.

“They’re all dead,” Shannon whispered back.

Hillary gasped and hid her face in her hands. “No…no…” she moaned.

“It’s ok, it’s ok,” Shannon said, patting her back. “Let’s go find a pew.”

When they got to their pew, there was a program with lots of pictures of Lily.

It said:

LILY BONZA has passed into the spirit life

We honor her by coming to this service.

On the front, there were pictures of Lily in ski gear, Lily with her parents before they died looking happy, Lily as a baby eating yogurt with it smeared all over her face, Lily with her pet dog, Bachy.

It was very emotional and Hillary began crying. Shannon didn’t feel emotional for some reason.

By the end of the funeral, Shay and Hill were both sobbing. They missed Lily. There were about 6 people in all at the funeral. But they did notice halfway through, Girl of the Hood arrived in a plain grey dress with little diamond studs without Shanikwa. (She probably would have made too much noise.) Had Lily been one of G.O.T.H.’s fans?

35

“Have a great day, Dana!” Dana’s mother kissed her proud little autistic first grader good-bye.

“I will try,” Dana muttered nervously.

But off she was.

36

Finally the time of every high school girl’s year. High school pictures! It was October 9.

Hillary’s olive colored skin and dark hair went beautifully well with her dress, and Shannon’s flaming red hair with beautifully with her dress.

Hillary wore a strapless dress with a blue rim and it had green eyeballs as the decoration on the dress. Shannon wore a cherry-red dress with two lines of red ruffles. The dress’s sleeves were a little way down her arm.

Hillary took her sophomore picture home, and her Grandma Davis loved it. (Hillary’s mom traveled around on the world, so she rarely ever saw her mom.)

“Oh my goodness, Hillary, dear, this is…beautiful! I’m going to frame it right now and replace your freshman picture!”

“Thanks, Grams. I gotta go do my homework.”

“You are a pretty girl, Hill,” she heard her Grandma Davis mutter as headed upstairs.

In a nearby house, Shannon’s mom loved hers too. “Shay-Shay, my dear girl, have I told you how beautiful you are?” Shannon ducked a hair-tussle and ran up to her room to listen to music.

37

“Everyone welcome our new student Dana please,” a teacher named Mrs. Jucker said to the 1st grade class in room 1B. All the little 1st graders with their pigtails and baby teeth and dinosaur shirts applauded. One spunky looking girl even yelled: “Yay for Dana!” “Will anyone volunteer to sit with Dana?” Mrs. Jucker asked. “It would be mighty nice of you…”

The spunky looking girl raised her hand. “Yes, I would!”

Mrs. Jucker clapped her hands. “Very good, very good! Thank you, Jana.”

“Apple-bottom!” ‘Jana’ corrected.

Mrs. Jucker sighed. “That’s right—I meant Apple-Bottom.”

“Thank you,” Apple-Bottom said. “Now Dana, come sit next to good ol’ Apple Bottom!”

Dana liked Apple-Bottom already. She was confident, nice, and funny, so she immediately sat down by Apple-Bottom eagerly. “Thanks!”

“Your welcome,” Apple-Bottom replied, winking. “I’ll tell all about this class and the kids in it at recess.”

“Ok.”

Pretty soon, recess came, and Apple-Bottom gathered Dana under a tree. “Ok, listen closely. Class 1B is pretty nice, and it won’t be too bad with me in it. Here are the people to watch out for: Ursula and Ying. Ursula and Ying are very mean girls and they call me ‘Mouse Tooth’ because I’m petite and I have sharp teeth. You with me so far?”

“Yeah. I wouldn’t walk away, that would be rude.”

“Um, ok. So what’s exactly wrong with you?” Apple-Bottom lowered her voice as she said this.

“My mom says I’m autistic,” Dana whispered.

“Oh, I’ve heard of that. So, anyway, especially watch out for Ursula and Ying. If they bully me, they’ll definitely bully you, ‘cause you’re, ya know…autistic.”

“Yeah,” Dana agreed with her new friend.

“And, also, Dana, don’t be fooled by them. They’ll pretend you’re their friend, and then dump you like a banana peel being littered on the ground. Trust me, Dana. Trust me.”

“I trust you!”

“Ok, good, because these rules are i-m-p-o-r-t-a-n-t.”

                                                   ***

Dana got home, and her mother heard the door slam shut. She ran to her little girl. “How was your day?”

“AWESOME!” Dana yelled, squeezing her mother tight.

Dana’s mother was overwhelmed with happiness. She swung Dana into the air without thinking, and immediately Dana started panicking. She hated any sort of heights, especially when someone lifted her up and was touching her. “STOP! STOP! MAKE IT GO AWAY…” Dana wailed and kicked and screamed. Her mother set her down gently on the couch and wrapped her in the blanket. “It’s ok, it’s ok,” she told her poor Dana. “Did you make any new friends?”

“Yes,” she answered from under the blanket.

“Well, that’s great! What was he/she’s name?”

“Apple-Bottom.”

“Ha, ha, ha. You’re a funny girl. No, really, what is her name?”

“I said Apple-Bottom!”

Her mother shrugged. “Ok, if you say so. Would you like to have her over sometime?”

“How do you make someone go over? Does that mean throwing someone over your shoulder? Of course I don’t want to do that to Apple-Bottom!”

She began sniffling.

“No, no, no, I’m sorry, sweetie! I meant, ‘would you like to invite Apple-Bottom to your house sometime?’”

“Yeah.”

“Ok, well that’s great! I’ll look in the phone-book right now and arrange something with Apple-Bottom’s mom.”

38

“Oh, Shanikwa, baby, how was your time with Mrs. Hendricks? Was it fun?”

Shanikwa nodded enthusiasticly. Girl of the Hood always knew the best people to look after Shanikwa. Mrs. Hendricks was their next door neighbor who had known Shanikwa since she was a little dark-skinned baby.

Mrs. Hendricks was fun, easy-going, and gentle, kind, and safe. The perfect things for Shanikwa, Girl of the Hood had thought when she met her. The moment GOTH met Mrs. H, she looked into her eyes and said, “You’re gonna make a good baby-sitter for my baby girl, aren’t ya?” Ms. Hendricks had said, “I hope so!”

Well, Ms. Hendricks’s hope had worked, because Shanikwa insisted on Ms. H every time GOTH went somewhere!

39



Ivory was laying on her yellow comforter with sunflower earrings and necklace, and a yellow banana dress with a braided brown belt in the middle. She liked her junior picture. It was much better than freshman year!, where her smile looked like some weirdo creeper.

Ivory loved yellow. It was her favorite color of all time! And the best part was her hair was sunflower blond, bright blond, whatever you want to call it. So she was yellow a lot of the time! As she sat on her cozy bed, she dwelled on things that had happened lately. She thought about the 2 friendly girls she had met at the coffee-shop, Hillary and Shannon. She recalled that the other day, she had seen them at school! She was happy to discover they went to the same one. She had seen Shannon—the one with the red hair—walking arm-in-arm with a girl that looked about her age, and she had heard Shannon call her ‘Carrie’. But the weird thing was, Ivory saw them kiss! Was Shannon an open lesbian?

And she had seen Hillary at her locker gathering some binders, and she noticed Hillary had a really cool teal-colored cartilage ring that had flowers around the cartilage ring.

She had tapped her and said, “I love your cartilage earring!”

Hillary had spun around and said, “Oh, you. Thanks!”
So Ivory assumed Hillary had recognize her. Ivory decided to ask Hillary if she wanted to come over sometime. That would be fun. She’d have to work on Shannon, though. Shannon didn’t always like her.

40

Hillary and Shannon got their yearbooks a week later of Oak Leaf High. Hillary looked at sophomore kids first, to see her own picture in there, and then at seniors, to see how Shannon’s and Carrie’s turned out. Shannon’s was pretty in Hillary’s opinion, with a nice ruffley red dress and triangle yellow earrings. She also liked Carrie’s—she was wearing a pink turtle-neck with little sparkles on it. She looked at Carlson’s, too, who was a junior. She wasn’t sad as she looked at it, though. Joe was way cuter. As Hillary was looking through the junior section, she saw a girl she recognize from somewhere…and then it hit her! The girl who wouldn’t give up her seat at Barbara’s Coffee-Place! Her name was…Ivy? Ivi? No…Ivory! Hillary learned her full name was Ivory Diner. Hillary saw a triplet named Angel, Amanda, and Olia. They were identical. Hmm, Hillary thought, that’s rare but cool! Hillary wondered if Ivory was friends with the triplets. Now that she thought about it, she liked Ivory. She knew Shannon obviously didn’t, but that didn’t change her opinion at all. Hillary remembered the other day, when Ivory came up to her and complimented her cartilage ring. That had made her feel good.

Just as Hillary was about to dial Ivory’s number, the phone rang. She picked it up. “Hello?”

“Hey, Hillary. This is Ivory…from school? You saw me at the coffee-shop that one time?”

“Yes, yes, I remember you alright. And I, actually, was just about to dial your number!”

“Oh! Really?”

“Yeah. Hey, speaking of your compliment on my cartilage ring…I have one for you. I must say I loved that pink flowerly strapless dress you were wearing today. It was really pretty.”

“Oh, thanks! Hell, that’s like the only piece of clothing I own that isn’t yellow!”

“Yeah, I noticed you wear yellow a lot.”

“Yes, it is definitely my favorite color. Hey, um…would you like to come to my house? I mean like, it is Saturday. I got nothing else going on today.”

“Yeah, sure! My mom wouldn’t mind, I’m sure.”

“Ok, awesome! See you then.”

“Bye.”

Hillary hung up. She didn’t get why Shannon didn’t like Ivory. She loved the positive energy that exuded off of Ivory. And she thought she was really nice.

10 minutes later, Hillary was laying on Ivory’s yellow comforter next to Ivory. “Your bed is so cozy, I love it!”

“I know, right? I’m a big fan of cozy.”

“Did you get your yearbook yet?”

“Yeah! I liked my picture. Did you like yours? I thought you looked really pretty in your eyeball dress.”

Hillary laughed. “Thanks. Yeah, I liked mine. Yours was pretty too.”

Ivory grinned. “Did you see those triplets?”

“Yeah, I did! Do you know them?”

“Yes. They are my 3 close friends. I get them mixed up sometimes though. Ok, not sometimes. All the time!”

Hillary giggled. Ok, not only was Ivory really optimistic and nice, she was funny.

“Hey…Shannon’s your best friend, right?” Ivory asked.

“Yeah, why?”

“Does she like me?”

Hillary was at a loss of what to say. But she decided to be honest. “She doesn’t seem to, but I do.”

“Oh.” Ivory looked sad. “Why not? Does she talk about me?”

“No, no, not that much. Shannon’s just a little…judge-mental, let’s say. Don’t let it get to you.”

“Well then why do you hang out with her?”

Hillary shrugged. “I’ve known her for a while. She’s fun…nice…I don’t know.”

“Well, maybe if you tell her you like me, she’ll try me out. See if I’m ‘fun and nice’, as you say.”

Hillary smiled. “Sure, I’ll tell her!”

41

2 days later, on Monday, Hillary and Ivory walked to school together. Shannon was home sick with the flu, and Hillary and Shay usually walked together, so today Hillary called Ivory and they met up.

“Who’s your favorite teacher?”

“Ms. Brooks—or Mr. Jin. I don’t know, I can’t pick!! Who’s yours?”

“Ms. Garcia. She’s sooo funny.”

“Oh, I don’t have her. I think I pick Ms. Brooks. She’s a really good teacher. Stern, but not mean.”

They had a silence for a few moments. Out of the blue, Hillary asked, “Are you dating anyone?” (Well, and there ALSO happened to be a good-lookin’ dude walking by at that moment.)

“Yeah.”

“Who?”

“His name’s Carlson, I don’t know if you know hi—”

“Oh, I know him alright,” Hillary said sadly.

“How do you know him?”

“He was my ex-boyfriend.”

“Oh! Erm, I’m sorry. Did I steal him from you?”

“No, no, I broke up with him. I’m now with a guy named Joe who doesn’t go to this school. He goes to the high school down the road.”

“Oh, kewl.”

They arrived at the high school, and they were early so Ivory and Hillary sat down at a bench. Ivory took out her year-book. As she was flipping through, she asked, “Do you have a job?”

“Yeah. I’m a mail-woman. You?”

“Oh, that’s cool! Yeah, I just started being a ballet instructor.”

“Ooh la la, that’s advanced stuff! You must be good!”

All of a sudden Ivory flipped to a page that caught Hillary’s eye. “Wait! Oh my gosh, that’s Lily’s memorial page!”

“Oh yeah, it sure is!”

Ivory and Hillary read it together. In the picture they put next to her name, she had a big smile and was wearing a casual black-and-white striped dress with a straw hat. She looked so, so happy in that picture, and she was crying happy tears with mascara running down her face.

“Awww, that’s such an awesome picture,” Ivory noted.

“Isn’t it?” Hillary said with tears in her eyes.

All of a sudden Hillary and Ivory looked up—and who did they see? Shannon. Ivory was the first to say something.

“Oh! Shannon, it’s you! I thought you had the flu! Are you better? I hope so!”

Shannon rolled her eyes and muttered, “You didn’t even give me a chance to answer.” Then she turned to Hillary. “Anyway! Hey, Hillary! How are ya?”

“I’m good,” Hillary said quietly, but she was a little hurt how mean Shannon was always being to Ivory, who was so nice to her.

“Ok, now I’ll give you a chance to answer. Are you feeling better?” Ivory joked.

Shannon took a deep huffy breath. “Yes. Why else would I be at school?”

Hillary couldn’t take it anymore. She threw her hands up in the air. “Big deal! Ivory’s just checking on you! Jeez, you think we were just gonna sit here and assume? No! She’s trying to be a good friend!”

Ivory smiled at Hillary and linked pinkies with her.

Shannon just stared at Hillary, at a loss of what to say.

42

“So…did you hear? Shannon and Hillary aren’t friends anymore.”

“What? Really? That’s impossible! They’ve been friends for as long as I can remember!”

“Well, you better believe it! It’s true!”

“Are…are they enemies now?”

“I don’t know. I just know they are not friends.”

Oak Leaf High buzzed with gossip about Shay and Hill-Bill, the two “friends”.

It wasn’t that Shannon and Hillary weren’t friends anymore, they just didn’t know what to do after Hillary stood up for Ivory. So they had sorta been avoiding each other.

43

“Hey, Dana! I’m Ying, and this is Ursula. What’s up?”

“Hi…” Dana said, slowing backing away. Apple-Bottom was absent today. She knew to avoid them.

“So what school did you go to in kindergarten?”

“Uhhh…”

“What? Do you remember which one?”

Ursula whispered something in Ying’s ear that sounded like ‘she’s a retard, remember?’ and Ying went ‘ohhh yeah’.

“Never mind,” Ying said to Dana, patting Dana’s shoulder. “So do you like it here? Made any new friends?”

“Yes. Apple-Bottom.”

Apple-Bottom? You know that’s not her real name, right? Her name is Jana. And by the way…don’t be friends with her. She will tell you false information and act like a friend and then dump you.”

“But she told me the exact same thing about you!”
Ying made a mad face, then softened and smirked at Ursula. “Well, she’s lying. Just hang with us and you’ll be fine.”

“Yeah.” Ursula put a skinny arm around Dana.

“No!” Dana ran away as fast as she could until she was hiding behind a tree out of Ying and Ursula’s sight. She knew Apple-Bottom was a friend, and they weren’t. And she would stick with Apple-Bottom.

44

Girl of the Hood hobbled around the house in her “Momma” jeans, since it was the weekend and she wasn’t trying to look good. She poured herself a cup of hot chocolate and sipped it, closing her eyes. She had a lot to think about lately. Then she set it down on a holder, and sat on the couch. She began humming a song her father had taught her. “Peace on earth to everyone…glory, glory to the animals and to you…” It comforted her, a little.

GOTH’s birthday was in 3 weeks—and she was going to be turning 16! And then she could officially drive! Like a…real mom. A normal-aged mom, anyway. She could strap Shanikwa in the backseat and say, “Off to Pet Land, baby girl!” or something like that.

GOTH was full of spunk and braveness, and she loved her new life—but everyone, everyone had sad days. Even Girl of the Hood. But it was also a relaxing day.

All of a sudden GOTH saw Shanikwa come running in. “Hi, Shanikwa, baby! What’s up?”

“Nuttin’ much, Mama.” She began sucking her thumb.

Girl of the Hood laughed and smiled, her hands on her hips. “Baby girl—I just remembered! I have an interview today! Holy—shit!”

She ran upstairs and got ‘fully’ dressed, put on lipstick, mascara, and blush, brushed her teeth, and took a shower.

As she rushed back downstairs, Shanikwa asked, “What time is yo interview, Mama?”

Girl of the Hood glanced at her pink watch. “Well…any minute now. They supposed to arrive at my house.”

“Am I in da interview?” Shanikwa demanded, “or can I go upstairs and watch Dora?”

“You go upstairs and watch Dora, baby girl,” Girl of the Hood said, kissing Shanikwa on the cheek. “Have fun—y’all be good.”

All of a sudden--ding-dong.

GOTH batted her eyelashes, reminded herself to “breathe” and opened the door in one swift movement. “Hiiii!” she breathed.

“Hello, Girl of the Hood. How are you today? We are here to give you yet another interview.”

“Yes, I know! Why don’t you sit down? Kitchen table, or the couch…?”

“Sure, how about the kitchen table. Let’s pull out  a chair.”

Once they were all set up and recording, Jilly Mendoza began the interview.

Host: Helllooo, guests and fans! And here we have yet another interview with none other than…GIRL OF THE HOOD!

(Girl of the Hood bows and is applauded)

Host: So, GOTH, how did your fan meeting go?

GOTH: It went great, y’all. Thank y’all so much for comin’ out just to see me.

Host: Good, good. Now is there anyone in particular you’d like to call out?

GOTH: Hmm. Well, there is Dana…and Joe and Hillary.

Host: Did you hear that, fans? Whoever “Dana”, “Joe”, and “Hillary” is, Girl of the Hood remembers you!!

GOTH: That’s right.

Host: Now, Girl of the Hood…we have a bit of a surprise for you…

GOTH: What?

Host: Well…WE HAVE A FREE CERTIFICATE FOR YOU to go on a cruise-boat with whoever of your choice to a tropical island!! How great is that?!

GOTH: Oh my god, oh my god…what???! No, this is too much. Really.

Host: No, no, you deserve it! Everyone loves you! But all your fans are wondering…who will you pick?

GOTH: I think I will go by myself, and see if I meet any--males…

(Pause for laugh)

Host: Ok, and thank you for yet ANOTHER interview, Girl of the Hood! And enjoy your cruise!

45

“Well…this is it. I know it’s not much.”

“No, no, I like it! I think it’ll work.”

“Ok. I’m glad you like it, because I sure do too. There’s just something about it…”

It was midnight, and 2 high school girls were standing under a statue, a hidden place of trees in a park. One girl was named Ivory, and the other was named…Hillary.

“So this is our…OFFICIAL HIDEOUT!” Ivory screamed/whispered.

“Yes! So it is! Let’s…celebrate!”

They clinked cider glasses and drank.

46

“Hey…baby.”

“Hey there.”

Before she could do anything about it, Carlson was kissing her. Kissing, kissing, kissing her…right behind the pillar at Lincolnwood Mall. Before long it grew into passionate making out. “Meet me here. Tomorrow. 8 o’clock,” is what he said before walking away with his same usual swagger.

Hillary gazed after him, confused about what just happened.

47

“You what?” Joe demanded angrily.

“I’m sorry, Joe! I got confused! I just let it happen! I don’t know why! But you are a waay better kisser.”

“Don’t try to do that, Hillary. That’s not gonna make me feel better. You made out with Carlson, which means you’re basicially a slut. Cheating on boys like that. First your ex, then your actual boyfriend. Seriously, Hillary. Learn how to be in a relationship.”

With that, Joe walked away angrily, with Hillary once again—gazing after him, regretting, regretting, regretting what she did with Carlson. Would she now meet Carlson at 8 o’clock though? Was she through with Joe? What about Ivory? Was she still dating Carlson? She didn’t want to lose Ivory’s friendship, too! She decided to call Ivory before she met Carlson.

48

Before long, December rolled around, and what it was that time of year again. Ya know, snow, lights, Christmas trees…all that jazz. Everyone loved that time of year.

And while Carlson and Hillary and Ivory were playing in the snow, Girl of the Hood was on a cruise to a tropical island with colorful fish and lots of sun and girls in bikinis and palm trees.

GOTH left Shanikwa with Ms. Hendricks, of course, to Shanikwa’s surprise and happiness. So she was on this fancy cruise, sitting at a dinner table eating lamb, alone. But she was having a nice time—although she was a bit lonely for friends.

All of a sudden, a skinny blond girl that looked like she was 15 or 16 (like Girl of the Hood) walked over. She was wearing a teal dress made out of silk with leaf designs and swirly patterns. She had a little brown belt in the middle and big silver earrings.

“Oh my god. Hi,” the girl said.

GOTH recognized her. “Hi.”

“Do you remember me? From Oak Leaf High?”

GOTH gritted her teeth. “Yes. I do.”

“Oh my god—you’re ‘Girl of the Hood’, as you like to call yourself, right?”

“Yes again.”

“We miss you! Why did you leave?”

“First of all, sure you miss me. Second—haven’t you seen the news? I’m famous now.”

“You are?”

Yes.”

“Oh. Well, we miss you. You remember my name’s Jessica, right?”

“Sure, Jessica. Jesse.”

“Yeah, Jesse’s more like it. Mind if I have lunch with you?”

Without waiting for an answer, Jesse sat down across from GOTH. “I enjoyed you, Geneva.”

“Don’t call me that.”

“Ok, I enjoyed you, Girl of the Hood. Seriously! You should come back to Oak Leaf High. You have friends there.”

GOTH raised an eyebrow. “That was my old life. I have a new life now.”

“So you’re just living alone in a house, missing school?”

“Not alone.”

“Well then, with who?”

“My daughter.”

“Did you just say your daughter?” Jesse demanded.

Yes.”

“Oh yeah…I had forgotten. You got pregnant like, when you were like 14. I remember that! You came to school one day and sat out of gym and your belly got bigger…and bigger.”

“Ok, thanks for the story.”

Jesse beamed. “Your welcome!”

GOTH rolled her eyes.
“So will you please come back? I promise, you’ll like it.”

Girl of the Hood stared at Jesse, then at her food, then back at Jesse. “I’ll think about it.”

Jesse clapped her hands. “Yeaaa!”

49

“We haven’t talked in so long…” she kicked a piece of wet snow.

“Yeah…”

“Ever since you stood up for Ivory to me, we’ve been…avoiding each other. I can’t stand it any longer, Hillary! Please! We are best friends!”

Hillary turned away. “Ivory’s my best friend now.”

“But, Hill-Bill! Are you really gonna shut me out of your life now? We are bffs for life, for like…forever!”

“Shannon, things…things change. And you sorta have to deal with it.”

“But Hillary, it was just one little immature fight we had. Can’t we get over it? We are still friends right?”

Hillary shrugged. “I don’t know, Shay. Are we? You tell me.”

“No, we aren’t! Not right now, at least! But, please, Hillary, you are my best friend ever.

“Are you going to make me start singing that song by Taylor Swift? We-ee are never, ever, ever…getting back together…we—eee…are never, ever, ever…”

“So Hillary, what you’re saying is you wanna stop being friends. Just stop. Forever.”

“Yeah, basically.”

Shannon ran as fast as she could out of the park all the way home, sobbing the whole way.

50

“So, you just said, like, you just said it? ‘Shannon, let’s not be friends anymore.”

“Yup, basically!”

“Wow, you’re…you’re brave.”

“Yeah.”

“Wanna go get some ice-cream? My treat.”

“Ivory, I think you forgot that it’s winter.”

Ivory slapped her forehead. “I’m so stupid! How about hot chocolate at my house?”

“Totally.”

They slapped palms and headed to Ivory’s. They sipped hot chocolate on Ivory’s bright yellow comforter.

All of a sudden Hillary’s phone rang. “Hello?”

“Hi, Hillary, this is Grandma Davis.”

“Hey, Grams!”

“There’s a boy at my, and your, door. And he says his name is Carlson, and he’s your boyfriend. And he wants to see you.”

“Oh! Um…can you tell him I’ll be home in like, half an hour?”

“Ok. But I thought that boy Joseph was your boyfriend.”

“Joe? Well, we broke up.”

“Oh, well—well then, honey, I will tell you I don’t like the looks of this one. I liked Joe better. But it’s your life, not mine. Good-bye.”

Hillary hung up, and told Ivory it was just Grandma Davis checking on her and her boys. Then, half an hour later, she dashed home to meet Carlson.

51

Hillary dressed herself in a silky purple dress with a ribbon tied in the back. She read the newspaper…a strange hobby of hers ever since Lily died…and saw an ad that caught her eye.

OAK LEAF HIGH BEATS RECORDS

Oak Leaf High, one of three high schools in our town here, has beaten records—gone beyond the charts for amount of kids who participate in after school stuff, clubs, activites, sports, volunteer, you name it. We would like to hand out awards on Friday, December 25; and we’d like to call out some names who participate, by the order of Principal Mason.

Joseph Brombrig

Leah Jost

Josh Coralee

Josie Mari

Marie Little

Jesse Little

Shannon Rye

 

Hillary did a little gasp. Oak Leaf High—beating records? The little high school she went to? Wow. She knew all the people that were called out. Joseph was a boy in her math class who was a big nerd and loved solving equations and picking his nose, Leah was a really skinny girl who did hip-hop constantly, Josh was in her chemistry class—she thought he was cute when she was a freshman. But not anymore. Then Josie was in her gym class—she was an advanced cheerleader and diver. But she focused more on cheerleading—she knew that. She wore her uniform on game days, and she was known for being really pretty and athletic. She was the most popular girl in the sophomore class. Then Marie, she knew played chess and engineering and was mostly a tomboy, and a cool girl. Jesse she knew liked to volunteer and help out and lead fundraisers and visit orphanages and stuff. She knew Jesse had used to be friends with “Girl of the Hood”. Then…last and least…Shannon. She knew Shannon alright—her ex-best friend. She sorta missed her, though. Her awesome girl: lesbian, fun, nice, red-haired…

She had Ivory and Carlson now.

But she had lost Shannon and Joe. And both situations were her fault. She had broke it off with Shannon, although she begged, and she had cheated on Joe by making out with Carlson at the mall. Hillary sighed. Would she ever learn?

But she was also excited. Carlson would get here in 2 minutes if he was on time.

Grandma Davis was out shopping and playing bridge with some of her granny friends, so she had the house to herself. Grandma Davis was gone all day…and night, so Hillary was actually thinking maybe she could host a party tonight and invite tons of kids she knew.

Then Hillary remembered—today was her mailing job! Well, she still had 2 minutes until Carlson supposedly arrived, so she quickly put on her mailwoman uniform and ran out the door with the mail. She delivered to all the houses…including Shannon. Shannon’s mom came to the door, and squeezed Hillary’s shoulder. “Hi, Hillary! Haven’t seen you over here in a while…”

And then Shannon came to the door in a purple-and-black checkered bathrobe. She was holding a newborn baby with raven-black hair and squinty eyes.

“Hi…Shannon.” Hillary looked Shannon in the eye.

“Hi…Hillary.” Shannon kept her eyes on the baby.

“I’ve been wanting to talk to you, Shannon—“ Shay’s eyes lit up—just for a second. Then Hillary lost her confidence. “Maybe some other time. I have fruit and cheese for you guys to be delivered. Have a nice day.”

Hillary left, feeling sad.

But Shannon opened the door and ran after her, without the baby this time. “Hillary! Wait! I…need to tell you something. I know we’re not friends anymore, but I need to tell you anyway. Not as friends.”

“What?” Hillary sighed. Shannon had gotten a new makeup kit? Another piercing? A cool dress?

Shannon bit her lip. “I—I just had a baby.”

What? Wait, did I hear you right? WHAT? You just had a baby?”

“Yes.”

“Oh my god, Shannon, what? That’s—that’s crazy!”

“It’s true. And I’ve been hanging out more with a girl named Eisa that goes to our school lately. She’s Goth, and we smoke under the bleachers together. And tomorrow…I’m dying my hair pink. And maybe next week, I’m getting my lip pierced. Anyway…I named my baby Tabitha. And me and Eisa call her Tabby for short.”

It was all too much for Hillary to process. “C-cool. But Shannon, how did you just have a baby? You’ve been pregnant your whole senior year and didn’t tell me?”

Shannon nodded happily. “Yup. You were too caught up in your own problems to notice my baby bump. So yeah.”

“Does your mom know?”

“Well, duh. How else would I be holding Tabby right in front of her?”

“Yeah…you’re right. Well, so long.”

Hillary started walking away. Shannon called after her. “Don’t you want to hold her?”

“No thanks!” Hillary called back, running home as fast as she could. Shannon just had a baby, and she was pregnant this whole time and never told her. Shannon was turning Goth, and she was going to dye her hair pink and pierce her lip. And she hung out with…Eisa? Eisa was the biggest bad ass ever, and Shannon had always thought it was a shame the way she acted and dressed. And now Eisa was her bff? Best friend forever?

Hillary shook her head and thought to herself. So this is what happens when I break my ex-best friend’s heart and tell her I don’t like her anymore. She turns Goth and starts smoking and having babies because I wasn’t here to supervise her. God, I’m SO STUPID!

                                              ***

Carlson came over, and Hillary and Carlson played cards and baked cookies and had a nice ol’ time. Then, 8 o’clock came, and Hillary told Carlson about her high school party plan. Carlson made a list for Hillary:

Shannon

Eisa

Josh

Liam

Sam

Josie

And the whole rest was Goths, jocks, or popular cheerleaders. “What? That’s a horrible list!”

Hillary burst in tears and Carlson rubbed her back. “Why? Shannon’s your bestie, and Shannon’s been hangin’ with Eisa, so I figured you’re probably friends with her too…and Josh, Liam, and Sam are my friends, and Josie’s popular…”

“No. Let me break it down for you. Shannon’s not my friend anymore, and Eisa’s a weirdo Goth, and Josie’s just a snotty, beautiful cheerleader.”

So Hillary made the official list.

People to Invite:

(Carlson and Hillary) Ourselves))

Ivory

Liam

Josh

Sam

Josie

Marie

Leah

Jesse?

Tina

Tessa

Lauren

Quinn

Adam

Oliver

Andy

Ted

Kelly

Sally

William

Beatrice

Roxanne

Lillian

 

“There,” Hillary said, satisfied.

“Did you have to invite the whole popular girls group?”

“Well, I figured that we had to keep everybody satisfied. We couldn’t just invite my friend Ivory, your friends, a bunch of nicies, and have a party. An actual party takes some jocks and cheerleaders. That’s why.”

“Ohhhh. Well, fine.”

So Hillary and Carlson got to work calling everyone, and everyone could come except for Oliver and Marie. “Score,” Hillary beamed happily. “This is more people than I thought. And Josie and Lillian actually sounded excited!”

Carlson grinned at his girlfriend and put his arm around her.

                                               ***

2 hours later, everyone had arrived and Hillary led everyone into the basement, which she had made the ‘party zone’. It was all ready, with liquor and wine bottles waiting, and a carpet to play Spin the Bottle, and speakers and a dance floor for dancing, and some couches.

“Here it is!” Hillary bellowed.

Ivory was wearing a pink cocktail dress, and Hillary admitted she looked really nice. “You wanna get the boy’s attention, eh?” Hillary joked. Ivory slapped Hillary’s hand. “Maybe…” She winked.

First Hillary turned up some loud pop music. Then she said, “DIG IN AND GET DRUNK!” and everyone grabbed a wine bottle; and then after everyone was pretty drunk, they played Spin the Bottle. Tessa had to make out with Sam, and then Hillary! was picked, and not to make out with Carlson. L She got picked with Andy. She shrugged, because One, she was drunk, and Two, Andy was pretty cute. They made out in the circle, and then Carlson and Tina were picked—and Hillary was soooo jealous. She thought of how if Shannon and Carrie were here, then if they were picked, they would proudly make out and yell, “LESBIAN RIGHTS!” and everyone would giggle and cheer for them.

                                            ***

“Hillary. Hillary. Hillary! Hill-ar-yyyy! Can you see me? Can you hear me?”

“W-w-what happened?” Hillary finally came to.

“You blacked out, right after you kissed Andy!” Ivory exclaimed.

“Ohhh.”

Hillary was no longer drunk, and Ivory had never gotten drunk in the first place.

Ivory lowered her voice. “Is there anything you want to tell me?”

“Well, I started thinking about how if Shannon and her girlfriend Carrie were here, and what would happen, and how fun…but that’s impossible, because Shannon is Goth now and we’re no longer friends.”

“Really? Oh my god, I didn’t know!”

And Shannon had a baby and never told me I was pregnant.”

Ivory’s mouth fell open. “I….I-I…at least you have me. But omg, I’m so…so sorry.”

“It’s fine, it’s fine—let’s not get into it.”

Ivory and Hillary hugged, and Hillary muttered, “I’m glad I have a smart friend. I shouldn’t have gotten drunk.”

And Hillary never hosted some crazy party for drunks again.

52

“Oh my god, Hillary, your party was rockin’! Even though you fainted…it was soooo awesome! You’re super cool, and so is your party zone basement,” Josie said on Monday.

Lillian patted her on the shoulder, Beatrice gave her a high five and said, “You go, girl!” and the jocks were winking at her in the halls, and then Josie even asked Hillary if she wanted to join the cheerleading team. Hillary had to admit it was sorta fun being popular…she said, “Um, sure. When are tryouts?”

Josie laughed. “Tryouts? Tryouts? Girl, I can just get you in if I talk to Coach Cloud. Trust me.”

“Ok! Thanks.”

Josie grinned. “No problem.”

Then she flipped her platinum blond hair and bounced away in her purple-and green cheerleading uniform.

At lunch, Ivory sat with Hillary. “Why are you hanging out with the popular girls?”

Hillary shrugged. “They’re hanging out with me.”

“Yeah, but you can try a little harder.”

“I’m sorry, okay? Please don’t tell me you’re going to ditch me like Shannon too…”

Hillary was sure Ivory would laugh and say, “Of course not.”

But something horrible happened. “Actually, I am going to ditch you. At least for today, until you shape up.”

And with that, Ivory took her lunch tray, stood up, and went and sat at another table. Hillary spent the rest of lunch alone.

53

On Tuesday, Hillary spent another day alone. And another. After school, she wandered to the park by herself, without telling Grams because she figured she was probably at some stupid bridge game! She had on her grey knitted winter coat and red hat with a pom-pom that—gulp—Shannon had gotten her. She was wearing green eye-shadow and sparkly mascara, and no earrings except for her cartilage ring and her silver ball in her double piercing. Her hands were in her pockets, and she smoothed her hand across some tree-bark, and then went and sat down in her old secret hiding place she and Ivory had made.

Then she heard leaves crunching, and someone tapped her. Oh no! She just wanted to be alone.

She heard a voice.

“Hillary?”

Hillary turned slightly on her butt in the grass. “Hmm?” she said softly.

“I’m Nightingale,” someone’s smooth, relaxing, kind voice said.

Hillary didn’t know someone named Nightingale.

“I don’t know you,” Hillary said simply.

She heard an owl hoot nearby.

“Well…I just moved here from England. And I met your grandma, and she said you weren’t at home, and that you were probably at your favorite park. And well, I found you here!”

“Okaaay. I just want to be alone.”

Nightingale sounded sad. “Well, I…I have no friends, except for Valerie and Milo… and I just wanted to meet someone.” Nightingale’s voice cracked, and she began crying.

“No, please! Don’t cry! I’m sorry, I just…I really need to be alone. I’ve gone through a lot lately. Trust me.”

“You think I haven’t gone through a lot?” Nightingale said.

“Maybe you have, too, but…” Hillary let herself spill. “Has your best friend had a baby and then never told you you were pregnant and turned Goth and totally ditched all because it’s MY fault and has your new best friend ditched you as well because she thought I need to shape up and stop hanging out with the popular girls? And has your mom gotten pregnant when she’s like 50 years old?”

“Wooooww. Lot of drama, huh?” Nightingale said in her British accent.

“Yeah, that’s for sure.”

Hillary wasn’t even embarrassed, it just felt good to be alone at a park (well, except for Nightingale) and pour out all her troubles.

“Well…erm…have you met Valerie and Milo?”

“Who the heck is Valerie and Milo?”

“My only 2 friends. Valerie moved here for Hawaii and she has cancer, and Milo moved here from China. We were all on the same airplane, with no parents.”

“What happened to your parents?”

“They stayed in England. They said they wanted ‘space’, so they sent me here.”

“What? That’s—that’s ridiculous! But…welcome.”

“Thanks.”

“Does Valerie go to Oak Leaf High? Or Milo?”

“They are starting next week, like me.”

“Ohh. Can you go now?”

This time Nightingale laughed. “I’ll stay at this park. I like it here. But yes, I’ll leave you alone. Talk soon.”

“Talk soon,” Hillary replied, and Nightingale walked away.

Maybe things would be okay after all.

54

“Soo…is it a yes? No? Maybe so?”

“I said I’ll think about it.”

“And? No answer yet?”

“No answer yet.”

“Awww man. Well, tell me at once as soon as you make up your mind.”

“Okay, okay, y’all. Now leave y’all idol alone.”

“Ha ha, very funny, Girl of the Hood.”

“Leave me alone, Jesse! Do you want me to decide?”

With that, Jesse immediately left Girl of the Hood to make her decision. Soon, very soon, they would arrive at the tropical island—their destination.

55

Nightingale Berry was from London, and she had an accent. She had plain brown hair to her shoulders, and big blue eyes. She wore mostly wool turtlenecks and jeans, and Hillary noticed she always had a silver heart necklace hanging from her neck. She had a tiny diamond stud in her nose, but not in a Gothie way. It was more of a peaceful, pretty thing.

Valerie, Milo and Nightingale started the following week, and Hillary was glad. Shannon was long gone from being her friend, and Ivory had been ignoring her. And now she could just walk into Oak Leaf High with a nice British girl, a Hawaiian girl with cancer, and a Chinese boy.

Hillary met Valerie and Milo, and they were nice. But they found other friends, so Hillary hung out with Nightingale, and Nightingale only.

56

Apple-Bottom was back, and Dana was glad. And this time, Apple-Bottom had red glasses. “Apple-Bottom! You are not absent any longer!”

“I know! How did you do? On your own, I mean.”

“Well, Ursula and Ying tried to trick me into being your friends and that you’re mean”—Apple-Bottom blushed—“but I didn’t believe them, and I ran away. And now you are back.”

“Yes, I AM BACK!” Apple-Bottom agreed happily.

“Did you get glasses?”

“Yeah.”

“Is that why you were absent?”

“Yes.”

                                              ***

Ding-dong. Dana’s mother found her little 1st grader standing at the door, banging on it. She had a grin, though.

“Hiii, honey! How was your day?”

This time she made a point of not scooping Dana into her arms.

“Good,” Dana said, waddling into the living room/kitchen. “But I am hungry, Mommy. Can I have food?”

“Of course.” “Mommy” brought Dana some cheese and crackers, and Dana nibbled gratefully, thinking of how she wanted to have red-glasses Apple-Bottom over soon. And get her something for Christmas. Yes! For Christmas!

57

Christmas arrived. Hillary received a yellow flower necklace from Carlson. Carlson received a shiny watch from Hillary and a card. Girl of the Hood received much jewelry, cards, clothes, and letters from fans, and…her old family, and…Jesse. Erg. Jesse, Jesse. Girl of the Hood’s fans knew to send the gifts to her cruise, so she received them from a mailman in a life-boat.

Shannon received a pack of cigerattes from Eisa, and a colorful lip-ring. Tabitha received a sown blanket from her mother, Shannon—the Goth.

Hillary also received a friendship card and pair of earrings from Nightingale. Nightingale received a shiny bracelet from Hillary.

It was a nice Christmas.

58

“I know, right? Loooooser.”

“Total loser!”

“I bet she and her stupid little British friend got each other barbie dolls!”

They laughed. They were smoking behind the bleachers and gossiping about stupid Hillary and her British friend Nightingale.

“They think they’re such cool stuff,” Eisa said.

“I know!” Shannon agreed. “Loooosers.”

“Neither of ‘em have even gotten pregnant yet!”

“Loooooser.”

It filled Hillary’s ears, who was standing nearby, eavesdropping.

59

“She said what? Oh my god, she’s so mean! It’s a good thing you’re not friends with her anymore!”

“Yeah, but it’s all my fault. I’m the one who said I didn’t want to be friends anymore, although she begged. And now, her turning Goth—is sorta like payback.”

Nightingale shook her head. “My goodness, the drama you’re going through. In England, everything was just fun and games.”

Hillary raised an eyebrow.

Nightingale laughed. “Kidding, kidding! No matter where you go, there are always bitches. But most people are kind. And you have to remember that.”

Hillary giggled. “Yeah, you’re right” then sighed.

Nightingale put her arm around Hillary. “Everything’s gonna turn out fine!”

Nightingale added, “And forget Shannon…what about that girl Ivory that wears yellow sooo much? Is she still ignoring you?”

“Ivory? Well…I don’t know. I sorta forgot about her. I was so wrapped up about Shannon.”

“See if she wants to be friends again. You stopped hanging out with Josie and Lillian and Beatrice, right?”

“Yeah…”

“Well then, ask her! Maybe we can add a friend to our group.”

Hillary smiled. “Alright, alright, I’ll ask her.”

60

“Sooo, Girl of the Hood. It’s about time you decide!”

“Leave me alone, Jesse, I decided!”

“You did?! Oh my god, oh my god, please say you’ll go back to Oak Leaf High!”

GOTH rolled her eyes. “I’ll go back to Oak Leaf High. But just for a little while. Shanikwa can’t spend all her time with Ms. Hendricks.”

But Jesse wasn’t listening. “Thank you, thank you, thank you!”

Jesse bounced up and down happily and embraced Girl of the Hood strongly—a bear hug. “I love you, I love you, I love you!”

“Ok, ok, I get it. Don’t make me change my mind…!” Girl of the Hood threatened.

Jesse immediately shut up.

61

“Thank you so much for the ‘My little pony’ set! I loooove you! You’re a great friend,” Apple-Bottom said when, on Monday, Dana handed her a My Little Pony gift.

“Your welcome,” Dana replied, remembering her “manners”.

“And IIIII have something for youuuu!” Apple-Bottom said, surprising Dana, who was delighted to hear this.

“You do? Give it, give it!” Dana couldn’t help it.

Apple-Bottom handed Dana a box of buttons—which she knew Dana was obsessed with. One of her hobbies: playing with buttons on the kitchen floor. Autistic people could have strange obsessions. Actually, I correct myself: anyone could!

“Merry Christmas,” Dana said, remembering her “manners” again. But then she realized that was wrong. “I meant, thank you.”

“Your welcome!” Apple-Bottom kissed Dana’s cheek, which made Dana throw a tantrum and cry and scream and kick her feet and hide behind a tree, but Apple-Bottom just giggled, because she knew that would happen. She just couldn’t help it.

62

As Shannon applied gobs and gobs of mascara and eyeliner in the mirror, she thought wistfully of Hillary. She missed her. And she remembered how horrible and guilty she had felt as she glimpsed Hillary nearby running away as fast as she could while she and Eisa called her a “loooooser”. But instead of running after her and saying “bye bye” to Eisa, she had kept going. “What a looooser.”

Shannon hated herself now. She had dyed her hair black, pierced her lip, gone totally Goth, started hanging out with Eisa…

Would she ever get the courage to clean up her act, and go back to…

Shannon?

Or would she stay a total Goth freak meanie and hate Hillary but miss her her whole life?

Oh God, the thought scared Shannon, and she knew she had to do something soon. Not just soon--now.

She could start by taking off that UGLY eyeliner she just applied. She did that.  Then, she went in the bathroom and dyed her hair red again. Then, she took her stupid lip ring out. The hole would close up very fast, she knew.

Then she took off her ugly black clothes and innapprioate tights.

And she changed into her usual plaid shirts and jeans, straightened her red hair, put some nice little stud earrings in—not big swirly hoops that basically had GOTH written across them! Then she applied green eyeshadow and some blush in the mirror, and she was ready. She took a deep breath.

And gave herself a wink in the mirror.

63

Whispers flooded within the senior class at Oak Leaf High that day. “Shannon’s back to her old self…”

“Shannon’s not Goth anymore…”

“I wonder if she’ll start hanging out with Hillary again…”

“She better ditch Eisa…”

“She dyed her hair back…”

“She’s wearing her usual clothes now…”

“She’s not wearing hoops…”

And also a little of the sophomore class. Hillary and Nightingale.

“Did you see Shannon?” Nightingale said when Hillary was getting her binders out of her locker.

Hillary sighed. “What now? Is she a pretty cheerleader? Same ol’ Goth?”

“No! She changed back to her old self, as you would say! She has red hair, a plaid shirt and jeans, and no hoops! And not gobs and gobs of black eyeliner!”

“Really? Maybe she’ll be nice again too!” Then Hillary allowed herself to hope: “and be …erm…friends again.”

“Yeah, maybe she’ll ditch Eisa!”

“She better,” Hillary muttered.

                                                            ***

After school, Hillary’s cell rang. It said: SHANNON RYE

She picked it up. “Um…h-hello?”

“Hi, Hillary, it’s Shannon!—Don’t hang up!”

Hillary laughed. “I won’t, I won’t.”

“Look, listen. I’m—I’m really, really sorry.”

Hillary could just picture Shannon hanging her head and glancing up at her with a hint of a smile.

“You should be,” Hillary said, giggling.

Shannon wasn’t kidding, though, and no Eisa in the background cracking up.

“Can…can you possibly forgive me?” Shannon’s voice was a whisper. “Or think about it?”

“Sure.”

“You forgive me?”

“Yes. I forgive you, Shannon. I forgive you.” It felt so good to say it.

“So we’re friends again?”

“Yes, yes, yes, we’re friends again!” Hillary yelled it happily.

“Yeaaaa!”

“But on one condition.”

“What?”

“You wear your panties and bra to school tomorrow!”

She burst out giggling.

“Kidding, kidding!” Hillary yelled. “But seriously, on one condition.”

What?”

“You stop hanging out with Eisa.”

“Well, yeah, of course, she was a jerk! And part of switching back to me is that! Eisa’s not a part of my life no more!!”

“Ok. Air hug over the phone…!” Hillary said.

“Yes…!”

Hillary hung up feeling the happiest she’d felt in a long time.

 

65

 

“So are you friends again?”

“Yeah! I’m sooo relieved.”

“That’s good. Are you going to ditch me for her now?”

Hillary bit her lip. “No, Nightingale, why would you think that?”

“Well, you’d been hoping she would become your friend again…I was wondering if maybe I was just your backup while she ignored you.”

Hillary threw her hands up. “Nightingale! Why do you have to be so judgemental? You honestly think I would do that just because Shannon and I are friends again?”

“Yeah.” Nightingale looked down guilty. “I’m—I’m sorry! I was just…wondering!”

Hillary rolled her eyes. “I’m not going through some friend fight again. Yes, Nightingale, you’re my friend NOT my backup.”

Hillary walked away, a bit pissed. Could any friend just NOT start any drama for one day, for pete sake? Nightingale REALLY thought that? Wow. Pathetic.

But there was one person Hillary had to set things straight with.

Ivory.

66

RING! RING! Ivory picked up her cell. It was Hillary.

“Hello?”

“Hey, it’s Hillary—don’t hang up!” Hillary stole Shannon’s joke. Why not?

“Okay…” She hadn’t laughed like Hillary had hoped.

“And I wanted to check in on things…are we still friends? I miss you, Ivory. I do.”

“Well, have you stopped hanging out with Josie, Beatrice, Lillian, Brianna…ugh, I can’t name them all. The Pops?”

“Yes! I ended that like, weeks ago!”

“Well, then, apparently. If you cleaned up your act.”

What act? Were you really that mad about me being friendly to the Pops for one day? Jeez, people can have other friends.”

There was silence on the other end. “Ivory, did you hang up? No, Ivory, please…”

Still silence.

Then, “I’m here. God.”

“Oh! Phew.”

“But if you want to have an argument over the phone, don’t count me in. I do it face-to-face. I thought this was a casual ‘what was Ms. Garcia’s homework assignment again?’ but no, you want to confront me? Save that for in person.”

Hillary’s lip trembled and a tear rolled down her cheek. “I’m sorry, Ivory, I…I thought we could work it out over phone. Shannon and I did.”

“Oh, Shannon and you did? Well, if you haven’t realized by now, I’m not Shannon. I’m your other Non-Goth friend, Ivory.”

Hillary just hung up, because she didn’t want Ivory to hear the sobs that escaped out of her that second.

                                                          ***

Hillary’s grandma, Grandma Davis, or “Grams” as Hillary called her, was up in a second, rubbing Hillary’s back and whispering, “It’s ok, it’s ok.” Grandma Davis was old, but when it came to friend stuff, she was an expert and a big help. “Thanks, Grams,” Hillary muttered, then continued sobbing.

“What happened? Tell me.”

Hillary tried through sobs. “I—I—I—I…”

Hillary couldn’t do it. But little did she know something about Ivory…

FLASHBACK TO WHEN IVORY WAS IN MIDDLE SCHOOL

“Hey…loser.” Girls giggled as Ivory walked past, or, rather, not even Ivory--The Stutterer as she was called.

Later, in math class that day…

“Does anyone know the answer yet?” Mrs. Toby, the math teacher, asked the class.

Ivory took a deep breath and knew this was the time, the time to do what she’d always, but never, wanted to do.

She raised her hand.

“Yes, Ivory? Go ahead.” Mrs. Toby tried to act casual, but Ivory could see in her eyes, she was downright shocked.

“Th-th-th-th-th-th…” Ivory tried. She grew frustrated and desperate. “Th-th-th-th-th!!!” She threw her hands up in the air.

People had started to giggle by now. A popular girl, Shannon, who had bright red hair and glowing green eyes and a pretty pink shirt today, was mocking her. Ivory heard it: “Th-th-th-th…I can’t speak! I’m a baby!” Girls around Shannon laughed.

Mrs. Toby sighed and said, “Girls.”

Then she turned to Ivory. “Ivory, try again, sweetie.”

Ivory took a deep breath and glanced at Shannon, who was stifling a giggle, looking at her like, go ahead, try, loser. Make me crack up again.

“Th-th-the…a-a-a-a-an-an-answer-r-r…”—Mrs. Toby gave Ivory an encouraging look—“i-i-is…”—Ivory tried the hardest she ever had tried in her life. She would prove to those mean girls that she could do something—“i-i-is t-t-twen-en-enty f-f-f-four. Twenty four.”

Ivory grinned at Shannon, whose lipstick stained mouth was wide open, and she had stopped giggling.

She crossed her arms and said out loud to Shannon, “Ha.”

67

Ivory had stuttered back in middle school. Stutter, stutter, stutter galore. She was made fun of for it, despite her kind heart and fun spirit. It was that she was “The Stutterer” that mattered. She stood alone at the playground, chewed her sandwich alone at lunch, too.

And Shannon Rye, the red haired popular girl, sat at the table next to Ivory’s, giggling with her 8 popular friends. Making sure Ivory could hear her, she would tell the story of Ivory’s Stuttering Incident that day. It was like Shannon ran a news show about “Ivory’s Latest Stuttering Incident! Tonight, 8 o’clock”.

And all Shannon’s friends would giggle and point at her, one girl even cupped her hands and yelled “HEY, STUTTERER! HOW’S THAT STUTTERIN’ GOIN? I MEAN, G-G-G-GOIN’!”

Before Ivory’s proud stuttering incident where she overcame it—in eighth grade—this is how they treated her. Ivory cried almost every day. They were so…

Cruel.

Evil.

Mean.

And now, Ivory was a sophomore in high school, no one knew she stuttered except for one person.

Shannon Rye.

Hillary’s best friend.

68

The next day, you see, Ivory called Hillary and told her her whole stuttering story. And why she didn’t really trust Shannon. She tried to be nice, to become friends, but she hadn’t had a great history with Shannon. Shannon had been mean to her, laughed at her disability, and much more. And Ivory forgave her, but she didn’t appreciate it. And she didn’t need to.

“But…” Ivory added.

“What?”

“I don’t want you and Shannon to have a fight again because of me. Please!”

“No, no, don’t worry. But I will ask her about this. Just ask.”

Ivory sighed. “Well…alright.”

Ivory and Hillary were friends again, and Hillary was glad.

Now she could just…sit back and relax. She had Nightingale, Shannon, and Ivory. It was all good.

69

2 blocks away from the street, Pickles Avenue, that Hillary, Shannon, Dana, and some other people lived on, there lived a model.

Her name was Carrie Parks, and she was a junior in high school. Or, would be. She spent most of her time as a model, of course. No time for schoolwork or friends. More focus on skinny legs and make-up.

Carrie sighed as she thought this. That’s what her mom said, anyway. It was really her mom’s quote. “No time for schoolwork and friends. More focus on skinny legs and make-up”.

Carrie was lonely. Quite lonely. And she was strong and great and beautiful, so she was a model, but models needed friends, too. Or at least Carrie did.

Carrie was exquisite, let’s put it that away. She was shockingly beautiful. Like, people stopping on the streets to stare at her beautiful. But, again, shockingly beautiful models needed friends too. Especially if they were only a junior in high school.

She yearned to be one of those girls who jumped in a red convertible with 3 friends and said, “Let’s go to the mall!” or girls who sat on cushions in their room and did their homework together…

Carrie let herself daydream that she was one of them.

But every time, she would snap out eventually, and let reality take her full blow.

She was a model. With no friends. She was lonely.

She could confront her mom about it, she supposed. But her mom loved that she was a model. Do I have to repeat the quote?

And Carrie really didn’t want to bring her down, but…

It was her life, not her mom’s.

And to be honest…high school girls could, (yes, believe it or not) get tired of walking around in a sparkly purple dress and heels and a shining smile, when Carrie wasn’t even happy.

She was tired of seeing

ONE AND ONLY BEAUTIFUL MODEL CARRIE PARKS everywhere, herself on TV, on the news…

ERGH!!!!!!!!!

Carrie let herself sink to the floor and sob. She yelled.

BEING A SEVENTEEN YEAR OLD MODEL SUUUUCCCKKKKKSSSSS!!!!!!!!!!

 

70

“So, is it true? That you were a bully, I mean.”

“Listen, Hillary, I…”

“I’m not gonna get mad again, Shannon. I promise. We are friends forever, and we just gotta except it. But is it true? Yes or no? Did you make fun of Ivory for stuttering back in middle school?”

Shannon hung her head. “Yes.”

“Oh.”

There was an uncomfortable silence. “I…” Shannon started.

Hillary put up her hand. “I know, I know. Everyone can be stupid in middle school. I know, okay? I know, I know, I know. I understand. Don’t sweat it.”

Shannon tackled Hillary in the hugest bear hug she could manage.

71

“Shannon, I know this isn’t the best you could hope for, but…I bet, maybe by at least prom…you could be standing up again.”

Shannon was laying on a mat at physical therapy, rubbing her knee and moaning. “Stupid damn car accident.”

Language!” Shannon’s mom said sternly.

Shannon gave her mother a look, and she shut up. “Really, Mom? It’s my senior year of high school, I’m an awesome lesbian with great future goals, I got my best friend back, and now…now I got in a car accident in my brand new car and have to be in a wheelchair. And Hillary doesn’t even know yet!”

Shannon’s mom squeezed her cheeks and looked deep into her eyes. “I know. I know, Shannon, I know. It sucks. And I’m sorry for saying ‘language’. Of course you can say the d word! You’re in a wheelchair now!”

“You damn bet,” Shannon muttered, then bursting out giggling because she did it on purpose.

Then she grew serious, and her mom helped her up. She gripped the 2 bars beside her as she slowly walked along the mat. She went like, a millimeter, before tumbling down.

“Ok, Shannon…I think that’s enough physical therapy for today. I know your progress doesn’t seem like much and you want to keep trying and trying and trying, but, hon…that’s a lot of progress for a girl who just got in a wheelchair. Now let’s go home, baby girl.”

Shannon sighed and adjusted her jeans that were falling down. She twisted the diamond studs in her ears. “Ugh, Mom.”

“What, darling—”

Don’t call me darling, Mom. I’m a senior in high school here!”

Shannon’s mom wiped a tear falling. “I know. That’s why I’m doing it.”

“What?” Shannon cocked her head, confused.

“Because…next year, Shannon, you’ll be…in…in…” She let out a sob. “Collleggee.”

Shannon patted her mom’s back and said in a soft voice, “It’s ok, Mom. I love you, and I will visit you often. And come home for the holidays.”

“It’s not faiiiirrr Shannon just not faiiiirrr you birth that watermelon right out of your you-know-what to be rewarded, 18 years later…they leave you.”

They burst out laughing.

                                              ***

When Shannon got home, her mom did the tiring process of carrying her up the stairs (since they didn’t have an elevator yet) and then her wheelchair. Thankfully it wasn’t a long staircase. When Shannon was up in her room in her wheelchair, she called Hillary right away.

Hillary picked up on the first ring. “Hello?”

“Hey…it’s Shannon.”

“Oh, hey, Shay.”

“Hi. I uh…have some bad news. Please don’t freak out when I tell you.”

“Oh my god, oh my god, did a parent die? Your cat? Did your ears get infected? WHAT? WHAT?”

“No, none of those. I—look, I got in a car accident, and I got hurt—now I’m in a wheelchair.”

There was silence on the other end…until Hillary said in a gentle voice, “Oh…my…Shay, I am--so sorry.”

“Nah, don’t give me that goppy stuff! I’m fine, okay? It sucks like hell but I’m fine. At least I’m alive. And my mom says maybe by Prom, I’ll be able to walk…woopie! It’s all gonna be okay!”

Hillary was smiling on the other end. “Ok, Shay. Ok. You’re gonna be fine. But girl—I want you to know, I’m here for you. Always. And by Prom, you’ll be walkin’. I’m not gonna let you sit there in a wheelchair. I’m just not.”

Now it was Shannon smiling on the other end. “Ok.”

“Hey, Shay? Did you watch America’s Next Top Model last night? There’s was this super pretty model, and she was only a year younger than you! And she lives…wait for it…TWO BLOCKS AWAY FROM OUR HOUSES!”

Shannon started screaming. “OH MY GOD, OH MY GOD, for real?”

“Yeah!”

“That’s soooo exciting. Even if I seem like a stalker, one day I’m just going to march over to her house and say, “CARRIE! OH MY GOD, YOU’RE BEAUTIFUL!”

Then Shannon realized. “Oops. She has…has the same name as my girlfriend. That’s not good.”

Hillary rolled her eyes. “It’s cool, Shay. Don’t worry.”

72

Cheerleaders Josie and Brianna ran down the high school hallway with their binders, only to slowen their pace as they stared at Shannon Rye. In a wheelchair! And no bandages on her legs. Was it…permanent?

When Josie and her popular group slowed down to stare at Shannon, she just rolled her eyes. “What? You can stop staring, okay? I’m still Shannon Rye, and yeah, I’m in a wheelchair. I got in a car accident! Now go off to some other damn place than in the hallway starin’ at me! The least you could do is say ‘you okay?’”

Josie stifled a laugh and glanced at Beatrice, Brianna, and Lillian, her sidekicks.

Carrie, Shannon’s girlfriend, came up behind Shannon with chocolates, flowers, and a card, which she handed her. Then she started pushing Shannon’s wheelchair in a different direction. “Later, bitches!” Carrie yelled at Josie and the Pops. “And nothing’s funny!”

Shannon gave Carrie the biggest smile she could manage, and Carrie leaned down to Shannon’s wheelchair and kissed her on the lips.

73

Back to Lenard and Katie. We haven’t seen them for a while. The last time we saw them was when sophomore Hillary the mailwoman delivered some stuff to them and they were so polite and they introduced their selves.

Well, their dad died. Yes. He died. He had died from cancer—just yesterday. And that’s why we haven’t heard about them for a while. They weren’t quite ready. But now they are.

It was a cold, dark morning in mid January, when Lenard and Katie’s mother, who had quite a temper, came running down.

Guys!” she screamed.

Lenard and Katie looked up from their cereal. “What is it, Mommy?” Katie asked.

“Your father…” she didn’t finish.

Lenard gulped and said in a tiny voice, “Died?”

Mommy sighed. “Y-y-yes.”

Her voice had cracked, and Lenard and Katie burst into barrels of tears. Lenard and Katie had ran to their room and comforted each other, crying all night, sharing memories of their father. And bless their darling souls—that was the right thing to do. They felt a tiny bit better by the morning sunlight.

They slept in the same room that night, Lenard and Katie, and Katie squeezed her big brother’s hand. “I don’t know what I’d have done…without you.”

Lenard smiled and they fell asleep, having beautiful dreams.

74

“Shannon! Oh my god…”

Shannon batted her eyelashes. “Yes?”

It was some British girl that Hillary had hung out with while she was being a mean Goth girl.

“What happened?”

“You’re asking me what happened?” Shannon demanded in a mocking voice, then reminded herself--you’re supposed to be friendly, Shannon, FRIENDLY. F-R-I-E-N-D-L-Y.

“Just kidding,” Shannon quickly added. “I got in a car accident, and now I’m paralyzed from the waist down.”

“Oh my god, that sucks!”

Thanks. Most people say ‘I’m so sorry!’ but it’s like, for what? Last time I checked, you were being nice. So thank you for being the first one to just say, ‘that sucks’.”

Nightingale grinned with her purple braces showing. “Your welcome. I just said what came to mind.” She shrugged.

Nightingale said, “Well, gotta go! I’m saying the Pledge of Allegiance this morning. Later!”

Shannon waved and wheeled her way to her locker. Her locker was up higher, and she had to strain to do her lock. She tried to get her books and binders out of her locker, but they fell.

“Ugh!” Shannon said in frustration, looking down at the pile of binders and books, homework and essays.

She couldn’t reach it! She really couldn’t! Even if she strained with all her might! And no one was around in the hallway yet, as far as she could tell!

But all of a sudden…

“Need help with that, Senior Girl?”

Shannon spun around. (Well, as fast as you can spin around in a wheelchair.)

What she saw was 2 girls that looked much older—they wore way too much make-up for existence, they were wearing fishnet stockings with sparkly red skirts that ended like an inch from their underwear, and tube tops. She grew frightened, and then she realized she had been staring. She shook herself out of her spaciness.

“Well, do you?” One of the 2 girls put a tan hand on her hip, with black nail polish.

What was Shannon supposed to say? Was this some sort of trick, or did they really want to help her?

They couldn’t bully a girl in a wheelchair…could they?

So she went ahead and gave in. “Sure.”

The girls smirked and moved towards Shannon. But they didn’t help her with her binders. They looked her up and down. The girl with the curly blond hair curled her lip. “Listen, Lil’ Senior Girl, you gotta change up your style. Jeez, like, what are you wearin’? The things that are in right now are what we rockin’. Fishnet stockings, short sparkly skirts, tube tops. Do you want to end your high school year being an unfashionable girl in a wheelchair, or…a smokin’ girl wearin’ tube tops?”

Then she looked over at her friend, who had black hair in pigtails. “Cig?” the one with black hair said.

“What? No! No.”

“You sure?”

“Yeah, I’m sure.” Shannon’s voice grew stronger.

“Soo…are you gonna help me with my binders?”

“No, Lil’ Senior Wheelchair Girl, we came here to help you get in shape. Get a smokin’ style like us. Girl, we’re in college. Oak Leaf High was our old school. And we figured we’d give ya some help. I’m Louisa.”

“And I’m Shannon,” the blond one said.

Shannon looked at her in surprise. “Oh.”

“What’s your name, Wheelchair Girl?” Louisa demanded.

“Uhhh…uhh…”

“Forgot your own name?”

“No. No. My name’s…um…Brittany.”

“Nice try, Bud. I see your name’s on your binder. And…whaddya know? Her name is Shannon, Louisa! Shannon!”

“C’mon, Shannon, try a cig. Or are you a weenie?”

“No. No!”

All of a sudden Carrie came marching down the hallway. She was way taller than Shannon (the bad one) and Louisa, and she had 6 piercings in all.

“Hey, whaddya doin’ with my girl?” Carrie demanded.

“W-what?” Bad Shannon asked.

“I said WHAT ARE YOU DOING with my girl!”

“Nothing,” Louisa said, hiding her cig behind her back.

“I see your cig, Bad Girl. And I know you ain’t doin’ nothin’. Get outta here. Scat. And never come back, Fishnet Stocking Heads!”

Louisa and Shannon did scat, and they never came back.

And Carrie kissed Shay on the cheek and picked up her binders for her. “Don’t pay any attention to them, Shay. They’re little scaredy cats who try to intimidate people with their ugly inappropiate clothing. But don’t worry. I took care of them.”

Shannon gave Carrie a long kiss on the lips, and said, “YOU. ARE. THE. BEST. GIRLFRIEND. EVER.”

Carrie bowed. “Well, yes, it’s one of my many titles.”

75

“Honey, Hillary, your mother is back.”

“What? She is?!”

“Yes.”

“And with a…child?”

“No, no! But she’s 9 months pregnant. The baby could come any time now!”

Hillary’s mind flashed back to Shannon. She had forgotten that Shannon had had a baby! When she was Goth!

She wondered where Shay’s baby was now.

“Uh…Hillary? You still with me?”

“Oh! Yeah, of course. Sorry.”

All of a sudden the door opened and a lady with a huge belly walked in. “Hillary!” she yelled, giving her a big hug. Hillary barely hugged back. “Um, hi?”

“Why the long face?” Hillary’s mother said, squeezing her daughter’s cheek. “Because…I haven’t you in a while,” Hillary answered.

“Well, then all the more jolly to see each other, right?”

“Well, you left me for Brazil. And I haven’t seen you for almost a year.”

“Oh come on now! Your father was missing me. And you know I travel around the world all the time.”

“Oh…’kay?”

All of a sudden Hillary’s mother was quiet. Quieter than a church mouse. Her face had a distant look to it. “Your father…was a great man.”

“Mom? Dad’s dead.”

“I know…”

“Mom? You okay?”

“Yes. Just missing your father.”

Hillary put her arm around her mom. “Me too, Mom. Me too.”

                                          ***

The next day at school, while Hillary was bent over a complicated geography test, her mother gave birth to twins. 2 girls. One she named Poinsetta, and the other Bud. She knew Bud was usually a boy’s name, but as she stared at both babies, she thought it suited her perfectly.

She knew they would probably call Poinsetta Setty or Poppy, and that sounded adorable.

The birth certificates were signed. Poinsetta was born 2 minutes before Bud.

Poinsetta Rachel Bushel

Bud Hillary Bushel

76

After school, Hillary invited Ivory, Nightingale, and Shannon over. She hoped they would all get along.

All 3 came over screaming and jumping up and down. (Well, Shannon jumped with her arms.) “Ohmigod, Ms. Bushel, congrats!” “Hillary, you have 2 baby sisters!” “I’m SO excited for you!” “I’m gonna come over every day to see these adorable twins!”

“Settle down, folks, settle down. Let’s go to my room.”

The 4 trooped up the stairs to Hillary’s room, and Hillary shut the door. Ivory sat on Hillary’s blue bean-bag, Nightingale sat in Hillary’s rocking chair, and Shannon asked Hillary, “Can all 3 of you do me a favor?”

“Ok…depends what it is,” Hillary joked.

“Can you please lift me with all your might onto your bedspread, Hillary? My legs could be propped up. I just don’t want to be parked in my wheelchair by the door, all lonely and pathetic.”

“Of course! Remember when I fractured my leg, Shay? I totally know how it feels!”

So on the count of 3, they heaved Shannon safely onto Hill-Bill’s bed.

“So…let’s talk!” Nightingale squeaked, excited. “Which twin was born first?”

“Setty.”

Who?”

“Poinsetta! We call her Setty. Or sometimes Poppy.”

“Ohhh,” Nightingale said, now understanding.

“But guess what?” Hillary said proudly, putting a hand on heart.

“What?” Ivory demanded.

“Bud’s middle name is my own. Hillary!!”

“Really? Sweet stuff, Hill-Bill!” Shay said, patting Hillary on the back.

Hillary lowered her voice. “Shay…do you remember when you had a baby?”

Shannon’s smile faded. “Yeah…why? I was in my Goth phase. You know that.”

“I know. I was just thinking.”

“Thinking about what?”

“Did you give her up for adoption?”

“Tabitha? No. She still lives with us. Mom sorta treats her like my little sister. She takes care of her for me. I had a breakdown and I told what I was going through, and she didn’t get mad about me having a baby.”

“That’s good.”

Then it dawned on Hill-Bill and Shay that they weren’t alone. Nightingale and Ivory were staring at them, faces blank. “Uh…guys?” Ivory demanded.

“Sorry. Sorry!” Hillary apologized. “But you guys know Shannon had a baby, right?”

“Yeah. Yeah.” Ivory and Nightingale both said at the same time.

“Jinx!” Ivory yelled.

“Anyway…wanna go to ‘Queen of Smoothies’, anyone? Anyone, anyone? Got any takers?” Shannon asked.

3 hands shot up at once. “YES!” they shouted.

77

There were much whispers and rumours at Oak Leaf High the next day. Girl of the Hood had returned. She was famous as she walked down the halls with her hoop earrings and favorite grey dress, blue bangles and heart necklace. Shanikwa was with Ms. Hendricks, of course.

Hillary saw her and ran up. “Ohmigod…Girl of the Hood?”

“That’s me!” GOTH turned to look at Hillary. “Hey…you’re that fan from the waterpark!”

“Yeah. You are like my idol.” She added under her breath, “Other than the teen pregnancy thing…YES.”

“Well, yuperdoodles, I returned,” Girl of the Hood announced proudly.

“Who convinced you?”

“Jesse.”

Jesse? Oh yeah, Jesse. She’s on my volleyball team.”

“Cool.”

“Come with me to Mr. Sheen’s, Girl of the Hood! I’ll show you around!”

Girl of the Hood was welcomed in a nice way, and there was much happy friend reunions and smiles—since she was famous, after all. And they had missed her.

“Well, Genev—Girl of the Hood, you’re back!” Mr. Sheen had said. “Welcome!”

“What did you name your baby?” a random girl in the class asked.

“Shanikwa,” Girl of the Hood answered.

The class oohed and aahed and the ‘random girl’ whose name was Laura said, “Pretty!”

Girl of the Hood grinned and stared at the dirty classroom floor. “Thanks.”

“Alrighty-o, guys, back to work! Pg 17, Geometry Work-Books!”

Then Mr. Sheen leaned over to Girl of the Hood. “GOTH, we are so glad to have you back. How does it feel?”

“It feels…nice. But I can only stay for a little while because, ya know, I have a daughter to look after.”

Mr. Sheen looked off into the distance for a few seconds before saying, “Yes, yes. I understand.”

Girl of the Hood clapped her hands. “Soooo…should I sit down and do some geometry or what?”

“Well, after so much school that you have missed, do you feel comfortable? I don’t know if you’ll understand the stuff we’re working on right now.”

Girl of the Hood smiled at Mr. Sheen. “Ain’t you one nice teacher. But, yeah, I bet y’all is right.”

“Ms. Riquina might not like you much…” Mr. Sheen muttered. Girl of the Hood looked confused, so he added under his breath, “She’s the grammar teacher.”

“Ooooh,” Girl of the Hood said, giggling because his joke was funny. It was true, she talked with “y’all” and “ain’t”.

“Why don’t you just read a book.” Mr. Sheen offered. “I have one I think you might like…The Slang Dictionary. You wanna give it a try?”

Girl of the Hood rolled her eyes, laughing at the same time. “Very funny. But I got my own book, y’all.”

“Okay, then you can go join Jesse there in the corner. She’s been absent a lot, too. On some cruise.”

“Oh noo…” Girl of the Hood mumbled, but did as Mr. Sheen the hilarious geometry teacher told her.

She went and sat next to Jesse, opened her book: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.

Jesse squeezed her arm. “GIRL OF THE HOOD!” she loud whispered.

Mr. Sheen gave her a stern look over his spectacles.

She slumped. “Sorry.”

Then she turned back to GOTH. “You came back! Ohmigod, ohmigod, I love you!”

“I’m aware, Jesse. Thank you.”

78

Joe sat in his little yellow house, wondering how Hillary was doing—his ex-girlfriend. He thought about how she and Carlson were probably having so much fun together. He missed her. She never came to Jerry’s Ice-Cream Shop anymore like she used to, and that was before they were even dating! He knew it was probably ‘cause she didn’t want to face him in his baggy green sweater handing her a free pecan ice-cream cone.

But what Hillary didn’t understand is that it was with her that he felt his happiest, with her he was his best self.

So that’s why he had been failing in school lately. And feeling miserable.

79

Lenard and Katie were off to Jerry’s Ice-Cream Shop 5 days after their dad died. Little smart young children. Their mother did not give in, however, she stayed home making chili, and crying silently about her dead husband.

So Lenard and Katie went off by their selves, Katie in her poofy pink dress, Lenard in his jeans and sweatshirt, and the bell rang as they stepped through the door. They saw the boy who had been making out with that mailwoman at the waterpark standing there!

“Hey—it’s you!” Katie said bravely.

“Huh?” Joe asked. He didn’t recognize  them.

“You were the boy making out with the mailwoman at the waterpark! I remember you!”

Joe looked down and shoved his hands into his pockets. “Oh. Yeah. Probably.”

“Why did you do that?”

Lenard quickly shushed Katie and said, “Sorry about her. Katie, enough questions, O. K.?”

“Alright, fine,” Katie muttered, crossing her arms.

Lenard ordered a Blue Moon ice cream cone, and Katie ordered a strawberry ice cream cone.

All of a sudden…the ice cream shop’s bell rang again. And who came walking in?

Carlson and Hillary.

Joe thought he might faint. Was Carlson going to punch him and knock all his teeth out? Was Hillary going to link arms with him and say, “Oh, hey, ex-boyfriend Joe” and then kiss Carlson on the lips?

But no. Something weird happened.

Hillary walked up to Joe, placed her warm hands on his cheek, and kissed him. “Hi, Joe.”

But why’d she do that right in front of Carlson?

As Joe glanced at Carlson, he looked relaxed, chill, not angry. What was going on?

Joe pulled away from Hillary. “Look, what’s going on? If this is some kind of trick, you can just leave right now.”

“No, Joey, I promise it’s not a trick.”

Joey? What the freak?

“Well then why did you just kiss me right in front of your boyfriend?”

Hillary smiled. “Carlson’s not my boyfriend!!”

Now Joe was just plain weirded out. “What are you talking about? Then why is he here?”

Hillary rolled her eyes, but in a kind way. “Joe, what planet have you been living on?”

“Earth,” Joe snapped. “And I just want some answers.”

“Okaaaay…well, here’s your answer. Carlson’s not my boyfriend. Right, Carlson?”

Carlson nodded.

You are, Joe!”

“Yeah, right! You made out with Carlson at the mall and we broke up!”

“That was a mistake, Joe. Carlson and I are just friends now, and you are my true love interest.”

For the first time, Carlson actually smiled at Joe!

Lenard and Katie had just been sitting on the bench licking their ice-cream cones this whole time, taking all this high-school-love-triangle-drama in.

“Holy crap,” Lenard muttered.

                                                           ***

Joe scowled the whole way home from Jerry’s Ice-Cream Shop and crossed his arms. His dad, in the car, asked him, “What’s wrong, Joe? You seem down.” But Joe had just given his dad a dirty look and stared out his window in a horrible mood.

Then Joe saw his phone screen beep. It said: HILLARY

It was a text from her, not a call—thank God. The text said:

hey joe meet me @ the movies 2night, k?

What right did she have to boss him around and ask him to the movies? No way was he going. Not as long as his brain fell out. He knew Hillary was not someone to trust. She was a…

Cheater.

Liar.

And no one to trust or date again.

 

80

“Dana, it’s the weekend! Yeaa!” Dana’s mom said happily, bouncing her 1st grader on her lap. “And I get to spend it all with…you!”

Dana half-smiled as she bit into her granola bar. “Momma, what month is it?”

Dana’s mom sighed. “It’s…February.”

Dana looked down at her jeans. “Oh.”

Her mom picked up the newspaper as Dana wandered into the kitchen to play with buttons.

The front page read:

Girl of the Hood returns to Oak Leaf High!

A now famous and well-known 16-year-old throughout the whole town has now returned to Oak Leaf High, her old high-school. It is rumored that a girl named Jesse, a sophomore, convinced her as they were on the same cruise boat. We’ve got to get Jesse in debate club! Girl of the Hood’s daughter, Shanikwa, is staying at home with someone called Ms. Hendricks as Girl of the Hood now attends school.

Dana’s mother raised an eyebrow. “Wowzas,” she said. “’Lot goin’ on at that high school over there.”

She added, “First a sophomore dies unexpectedly on her first day, now Girl of the Hood returns? Crazy talk!, but it’s true! That high school seems to have bad luck written all over it. Should I send Dana there…?”

She began to think about that, but then convinced herself she didn’t need to think about that yet. Dana was only in 1st grade, for Pete Sake!

81

“Shannon, can you watch Tabby while I pick up some angel food cake at the grocery store? I would really appreciate it,” Shannon’s mother said to her now handicapped daughter.

Shannon shrugged. “Ok, no biggie.”

“Thank you!” her mother kissed Shay quickly on the cheek, and bustled out the front door.

Shannon picked up her daughter, Tabby, who was crawling on the carpet, and bounced her on her lap gently. “What do ya wanna do, huh, Tabbs? You wanna watch…Elmo? Eat yogurt in the kitchen? Take a nap? Huh? You tell me.”

All of a sudden Shay heard a knock on the door, and she figured it was a mail delivery or something. She put Tabby down on the checkered rug again and wheeled herself to the front door, and opened it.

Standing there was her step-sister. She was hoping she’d never see again.

Shannon gritted her teeth. “Isabel, what are you doing here. Git. Out. We told you to never come back.”

Isabel smiled brightly. “Oh, come on, Shannon, I’m your sister!”

“You are not my sister. You are my step-sister.”

“Yeah, yeah, same difference, Shay. Lighten up!” Isabel punched her step-sis in the arm.

“Don’t tell me to lighten up, Isabel. Git. Out. Do you want me to call my mom?”

“Oh, sure. Tell her I say hi.”

Isabel quickly spun around and dashed down Shannon’s front steps, and into a black SUV, which probably had Shay’s step-dad in it. She wheeled up to the ajar front door and gave her step-dad the finger as they pulled away.

And just then she saw her mom’s car pull up. She waved. “Hi, Mom!”

Her plump red-haired mother came bustling in. “Hi, honey. Help me with these groceries, will you?”

Shay looked at her mom in surprise. “Uh, I would Mom, but…”

Kidding, darling, kidding.”

“Ooooh,” Shannon said.

After her mom set all the groceries down in their tiny kitchen, and she settled down with her coffee, Shannon wheeled herself right up next to her. “Mom, something happened while you were gone.”

“Oh no! Is Tabitha lost? Did something happen to her?”

Shannon touched her mother’s arm, which was soft and fuzzy and smelled of coconut lotion. “No, no! Nothing like that. But Isabel came to the door…”

Mom set her coffee down with a startled jump, and it almost spilled. “She didn’t.”

“She did, Mom. And after I threatened to call you, she ran to her SUV, which had Jeffrey in it.”

Mom shook her head and put her head in her hands. “Jeffrey…that man…”

“I know, Mommy. I know.” When Shannon was comforting her mother, she tended to use the word ‘Mommy’ because she felt scared, too.

Now, reader, I know you are probably wondering who the heck Isabel and Jeffrey and why they’re such bad people. Well, wonder no further.

When Shannon was 8, her dad, Louie, died. So when Shannon was 13 and her mother, Ms. Rye, wanted to remarry, she found a man. His name was Jeffrey, and he was very in love with her as well. But it turned out the day Jeffrey and Ms. Rye were going to get married, Jeffrey called her and said he couldn’t, his girlfriend was giving birth. So Ms. Rye angrily canceled the wedding, and wondered in shock how he could be dating two women at once. So she dumped him, and told him to never come to her house again. And so now, 5 years later, the baby that the girlfriend was giving birth to, which was Isabel, came to the door; who was obnoxious like her father.

“It’s alright, Mom. It’s good you didn’t get married to that liar and cheater. And now you have me, and Tabitha.”

“You’re right, Shay…you’re right.” She started to cry and shake, and Shannon wrapped her arms around her mother and comforted her until her mother was smiling again, and that night, senior in high school Shannon slept with her momma, like she hadn’t done since she was in 3rd grade and had nightmares.

83

Joe ended up falling for the trap, or what he thought was a trap, and he met up with Hillary at the movies that night. After all, Life of Pi was showing, and he didn’t want to miss it. Even if it meant sitting 5 seats away from Hillary and throwing popcorn at her when she wasn’t looking.

Hillary was wearing a really pretty dress though, and it was strapless, and she had a really pretty flower in her black hair, and her tan skin had an extra glow, and oh, also, she had a beautiful smile on her face.

“Hi, Joe,” Hillary said. “I’m glad you decided to meet me here.”

“Yeah, well…I wanted to see Life of Pi so I came.”

Hillary shrugged and grinned. She reached for Joe’s hand. “Well, I’m glad I get to see it with you.”

Joe pulled his hand away and couldn’t hold it in anymore. “Hillary, seriously, what the heck is going on? Why does Carlson like me now? Why do you all of a sudden want to be with me? And why are you acting so mysterious and weird?”

Hillary sighed. “Joe, I already explained this. It was a mistake, kissing Carlson, and I just dated him ‘cause I felt like I was under pressure. And I told Carlson that, and he understood and said he would come with me to the ice-cream shop and tell you with me. Because the person I truly belong with is…you.”

Joe pulled her into a strong embrace and he kissed her. Then he grabbed her hand and said, “Let’s go see that movie, shall we?”

84

“Joseph, quit hogging the bathroom!” Carrie banged on her brother’s door.

“Shut up!” Joseph yelled back. “I’m taking a shower!”
“Well, I don’t care! I gotta get ready for school!”

“Use the one downstairs!”

“No, Joseph, this bathroom has all my makeup and ya know…girl stuff.”

“Too bad!”

Carrie did a big huffy breath and decided to at least get dressed. As she was pulling her pajama shirt off and putting on a purple tank top, Joseph came out.

Carrie screamed and ducked behind her bed. “Joseph! I’m gonna get you back, ya know!”

Joseph gave her a toothy grin. “Sure. Good luck with that. Bathroom’s all yours now.”

Carrie rolled her eyes and stomped into the bathroom, where she applied makeup and brushed her teeth, makin’ herself look pretty for her handicapped girlfriend.

And prom was next week! She couldn’t wait, but she knew she had to figure out a way for Shay to get up out of her wheelchair and dance with her. That would be too sad, Shannon just sitting there in a pretty blue dress with nothing to do.

85

As Carlson stared into his glass mirror applying his green bow-tie with white polka dots, he thought of Hillary. He thought of what a good person she was, to kindly explain to him how she felt pressure, and then to go to Joe. Carlson knew that was what she had to do, but still, he felt jealously towards her and Joe. Why couldn’t some girl just love him and stay with him? A tear of Carlson’s dropped to the floor. He was lonely, that’s what he was, and he wanted someone to just love him.

His dad had left years ago, back when he was in middle school, and his mom was always busy with work or tending to one of his many siblings. So did anyone love him?

At the lunch tables at Oak Leaf High there were the jocks, the cheerleaders (Pops), brainiacs, and so on…and Carlson sat with the jocks. But the jocks just ridiculed him and he wasn’t truly a jock inside. Plus, all the jocks talked about were their pretty Pop girlfriends that were cheerleaders and the latest thing they did to humiliate a nerd.

Did Carlson fit anywhere?

86

“Ivory, eat your toast!”

“I can’t, Ma, today’s prom!”

“And why would your stomach be churning for prom?”

“I don’t know, I just…”

Ivory bit her lip. “I’m nervous.”

“But you’re going with Hillary and Nightingale, aren’t you?”

“Yeah, and…oh, never mind.”

“Honey, what is with you this morning? What’s to be nervous about? You’re wearing your pretty yellow dress and white flats, right? And I braided your hair! And you’re going with 2 of your buddies!”

Ivory sighed. “Not just 2.”

“Hillary and Nightingale is two, Ivory, jeez, are you so worried you’re forgetting your math?!”

“No, Ma. I’m in geometry honors! But Shannon’s coming, too. And I think Shannon’s bringing her girlfriend, Carrie. And Hillary…I think Joe is coming just for the fun of it, even though he doesn’t attend Oak Leaf High, and I don’t know about Nightingale.”

“Well then stick with Nightingale!”

“But I barely know her, I just hang with her when we’re all with a group, and…who knows? Maybe she has a boyfriend!”

All of a sudden Ivory’s yellow iPhone rang. “Hello?”

“Hey, this is Hillary.”

“Hey.”

“So, for Prom today, I’m bringing Joe for a special treat…Shannon’s bringing Carrie, Nightingale’s bringing her boyfriend Milo…but are you bringing anyone?”

Ivory gulped. “No, I…I didn’t think about that. I thought it was just us, you, me, Shannon, and Nightingale. I didn’t know about all the romances being brought along.”

“Oh, well, that’s okay. You don’t have to bring anyone. Bye!”

“Bye…” Ivory hung up. UGH!!!!!!!!!!!

87

Finally! Prom, prom, prom PROOOOMMM was here! Carrie thought. She got herself gussied up and zipped up her sparkly white dress, complete with dangly golden earrings. Then, as she stepped outside, she saw Shannon’s car pull up. Ever since Shay’s car accident and her being in a wheelchair, she couldn’t pick Carrie up just them two anymore; her mom had to drive. So Carrie saw Shay and red-haired mom pulling up. She waved and gave Shannon a thumbs up, and climbed in the backseat.

Next they picked up Nightingale and Milo—Nightingale was looking very pretty in her lavender purple dress and heels, and her nose stud seemed to sparkle more than usual. Thank God Shannon’s mom’s car was a van.

Carrie turned around in her seat. “Did you change your nose ring, Gale?”

“Yes, and don’t call me Gale.”

Carrie snickered. “Ok.” And then for only Shannon to hear, “Gale.”

Next came Hillary and Joe, and Hillary looked very pretty in a rosy pink strapless dress.

“What about Ivory?” Carrie demanded.

“We’re picking her up next,” Shannon growled. She still didn’t like Ivory. But she knew it should really be Ivory not liking her.

“Who’s she taking?” Nightingale asked.

“No one,” Hillary said.

“Oooooh,” Nightingale said. “A loner, huh?”

“Don’t say that,” Hillary said. “She’ll be with us.”

Ivory climbed in, who was wearing a bright yellow dress with sparkly straps.

“That’s everyone, right?” Nightingale asked.

“That’s everyone, yep!” Shannon’s mom replied.

So they drove off to Oak Leaf High, and everyone carefully climbed out in their fancy dresses.

                                                   ***

At Prom, there was slow romantic music playing, and then sometimes upbeat disco music playing. The gym was filled, and there was red confetti coming down. Shannon and Carrie headed over by the fruit punch to dance, er rather, for Carrie to dance. “Can you try to stand up?” Carrie asked Shannon hopefully.

Stand up?” Shannon demanded. “I’m paralyzed, woman!”

“Yeah, but you could try. Girl, I just really don’t want you to be sitting in that pathetic chair this whole time. It’s not fair to you.”

“Fine, I’ll…try.” And in one brief miracle, Shannon tried, and tried to stand up, and she did; but she stumbled, but thankfully Carrie was prepared and she caught her. “I gotcha, sweetheart,” Carrie said, kissing Shay’s cheek. “Thank GOD!” Shannon replied. “Or else I woulda fell on my face!”

So Carrie held Shannon close the entire time, partly out of romance, partly out of steadying her so she didn’t collapse. They would take breaks for Shannon to sit down, when she got exhausted.

But it was a great prom for Shannon and Carrie.

                                               ***

Hillary and Joe headed off by the DJ, where an Asian junior sat, playing the music with headphones on.

“I’m so glad I called it off with Carlson,” Hillary said as she and Joe danced.

“Me too,” Joe said, kissing her on the lips.

“You look pretty in your dress,” Joe commented.

Hillary looked down at her dress. “Oh, thanks!”

They moved farther to the back corner wall of the gym, where Joe and Hillary kissed and kissed and kissed.

“You’re the best,” Hillary whispered.

Joe stroked her hair. “You too.”

                                          ***

Nightingale and Milo were off by the bleachers, gazing deep into each other’s eyes, moving slowly to the music.

“I wonder who Prom Queen will be,” Nightingale said.

“I won’t be surprised if it’s you,” Milo said, kissing Nightingale’s cheek.

She blushed. “Thanks.”

It was a nice Prom for them.

                                                ***

Ivory was off by the basketball hoops, sitting on a bench, fingering with her yellow sunflower wrist corsage. All of her friends’s wrist corsages matched their boyfriend’s (or girlfriend’s, in Carrie and Shannon’s case) flower in their suit pocket. But hers didn’t match anyone’s.

She was so lonely. She watched Hillary and Joe kiss in the corner, Milo and Nightingale dance and whisper to each other, Shannon and Carrie--

Wo! As Ivory looked over at Shannon and Carrie, Shannon was standing up!, Carrie holding her close to support her. Go Shannon!, Ivory thought, despite her miserable mood. ‘So they’re romantic too,’ Ivory thought glumly.

But all of a sudden, a boy who looked like he was senior, and was really cute, held out his hand. “May I have a dance or two?” he said.

Ivory gasped in surprise and put a hand to her heart. “Um, yes! Of course!”

So as Ivory and the senior boy, whose name was Samuel, danced, she learned things about him, and he learned stuff about her. And then—when Ivory was just beginning to figure that they were just friends—Sam kissed her. On the lips. And not just a peck, either. A little longer than a peck.

Ivory kissed him back, and when they let go, he said, “You’re a good kisser, Ivory,” and winked. She noticed he just happened to have a yellow flower in his suit pocket. They were meant for each other.

She felt giddy inside, and then…it was Prom Queen and King Announcement Time.

                                        ***

Carrie set Shannon down back in her wheelchair as the principal, Ms. Mason, made her way to the Prom Stage towards the microphone.

“Hello, fellow Oak Leaf High students. Today is a very special time of year…Prom. And I know all of you have been wondering…who will be announced Prom King and Queen? Well, you’re about to find out.”

She cleared her throat and took out an index card. “The Prom King and Queen at Oak Leaf High this year will be…”

She paused for a dramatic silence. The whole gym was tense, and anxious, she could sense it.

“Shannon Rye and Carrie Eberhart!”

The whole gym applauded and Shannon, with a gasp, had Carrie wheel her to the stage.

“Congratulations, Shannon and Carrie!” Ms. Mason said proudly.

Then the gym grew quiet again as Ms. Mason leaned in towards the microphone. “Shannon, we know you have been greatly handicapped this year because of a car accident, but you still made it to Prom. And Carrie, we know you’ve been such a great support to your girlfriend. And it is so great you guys are open lesbians. Congratulations.”

Carrie, in front of the whole school, kissed Shannon on the cheek and both of them laughed and cried and smiled and gasped at the whole thing. This was amazing.

88

Jess-e. You’ve told me a million times.”

“I know, I know, I’m sorry, Girl of the Hood! I just can’t stop talking about it! Shannon, this senior girl with red hair who’s in a wheelchair and her girlfriend Carrie won Prom Queen and King! Who knew?”

“Okay, Jesse, I get it, ok. Carrie and Shannon won it.”

“Yes, yes, they did! But it was such a surprise, ‘cause I mean who woulda thought—”

Girl of the Hood interrupted her. “Who did you go to Prom with, Jesse?”

“Oh, uh, I went with this boy named Carlson. He’s my friend in my math class, so I thought, what the heck? And he gave me a pretty rose corsage…”

“Oh good!” Girl of the Hood said, glad to have finally changed the subject.

“Why did you miss Prom, Girl of the Hood? I bet you coulda been Prom Queen!”

“But who would be Prom King, Jesse, huh? Ever thought of that?”

“Erm…some random cute boy would probably ask you.”

“Well, I had to stay home and take care of my dear lil’ Shanikwa, who hasn’t been seein’ much of her good ol’ Momma lately, thanks to you, who convinced me to go to Oak Leaf High, so deal.”

Jesse sighed. “You always win, Girl of the Hood. Alright. I’ll shut up about Prom.”

Girl of the Hood rolled her eyes. “Thank you!”

89

Dana’s mom sat on the couch in the living room as usual, doing her usual thing—reading the newspaper and drinking tea. This time, the front page again had to do with Oak Leaf High! That school, My God, she thought.

This time, the headline read:

Handicapped Lesbian Senior Wins Prom Queen

Shannon Rye, who got handicapped in a tragic car accident, wins Prom Queen at Oak Leaf High, along with her girlfriend, Carrie, who—is rumored—to have gotten Shannon to stand up at Prom while she supported her. This is very unexpected, and quite a miracle. Who knew a lesbian girl in a wheelchair would win Prom Queen? Everyone. ‘Because it’s not about how strong her legs are, but what’s in her heart,’ Carrie says, and she is quite true to her word. She’s right.

Dana’s mom shook her head and thought, My girl Dana could win Prom Queen someday. This proves it!

And there, right on the spot, she decided. She was sending Dana to Oak Leaf High when she came of age.

Then Dana came wandering in from the kitchen. “Ma, Ma! Apple-Bottom’s birthday party is tomorrow! Can I go?”

She was bouncing up and down with excitement, like a chipmunk that was high on drugs.

Dana’s mother kissed Dana’s forehead, and looked her straight in the eye. “Of course, my dear.”

Dana jumped and down. “Yea! Yea! Yea! Yea for parties! Yea for 1st grade! Yea for Apple-Bottom!!”

Dana’s mother could not have been happier in her life to her little Dana say that.

90

“It’s like, totally a miracle, like for real.” Carrie was grinning the next day as she and Shannon linked pinkies as they walked down the halls of Oak Leaf High. (Yes, I said walking). They didn’t have much time left at Oak Leaf, and they wanted to make sure it ended with a BANG! So they enjoyed every last moment. And Prom sure counted as ending with a bang.

And now Shannon was on crutches. Her legs were getting stronger, thanks to the best girlfriend she would ever have, Carrie. Carrie put her arm around Shannon.

This year has sure had some changes. I won my girl thanks to some ‘secret admirer’ notes, Girl of the Hood returned, Shannon won Prom, Hillary’s mom had a baby, Shannon had a baby, Shannon’s in a wheelchair…but it was a good year, too. And it’s about to end with a bang, Carrie pondered.

It was May now, and Shay and Carrie only had a month left till college. College! The thought of leaving Hillary, Ivory, Nightingale, even Carlson…all of them behind scared Shannon.

But she’d have Carrie.

91

“Ok, Jan—Apple-Bottom, blow out the candle!” Apple-Bottom’s mom cheered her daughter on. Her mom was as nice as her daughter.

Apple-Bottom took a deep breath and blew, and the candle went out. Then everyone dug into the chocolate cake.

“Woo-hoo! Yummy!” Apple-Bottom shouted, and someone blew a birthday horn and Dana threw confetti.

“Now let’s go downstairs, shall we?” Apple-Bottom’s mother suggested. “Apple-Bottom has quite a basement…for those of you who haven’t been over here before.”

All the giddy 1st graders headed into Apple-Bottom’s exciting basement, and yes, Apple-Bottom’s mother wasn’t joking—It was First Grader Heaven.

There was a trampoline, bouncy balls, an Air Hockey table, lots of squishy soft stuffed animals, balloons, and 2 puppies, Lila and Coral, which were Apple-Bottom’s pet dogs.

They barked and licked everyone, and everyone petted them back, but when one was about to lick Dana, Apple-Bottom jumped in front of her and Lila licked her instead of Dana.

“Thank you!” Dana yelled, remembering her manners. Apple-Bottom put gloves on before touching Dana and then put an arm around her. “No problem. Anything for my best friend.”

They hugged, and this time Dana let her, because honestly, she couldn’t ask for a better friend than Dana. It was a blessing her mom had sent her to school.

92

While Dana and Apple-Bottom were celebrating Apple-Bottom’s birthday, Ivory, Nightingale, Shannon, Carrie, Carlson, Joe, Samuel, and Milo were celebrating Hillary’s birthday. She was turning 16.

“Happy birthday to youuuu, happy birthday to youuuuu, happy BIRTH-DAY dear Hill-ar-y, happy birthday to youuuuuu! Whoopee!”

“Thank you!” Hillary said happily, hugging each and every one of her friends—even Samuel, who she barely knew; he was just Ivory’s new boyfriend.

“Great job singing, Gale,” Carrie said to Nightingale, winking at Shannon, who giggled so hard that she had to regain her balance on her crutches.

Nightingale turned around and charged into Carrie, laughing the whole time. “Call—me—NIGHTINGALE!!”

This time, Shannon laughed so hard she actually fell, and her crutches clattered to the floor.

Everyone went silent. Carrie ran to her girlfriend. “Are you okay, Shay?”

“What, me? Yeah, yeah, I’m fine! Carry on! I didn’t mean to scare you guys. This happens all the time. I’m just still getting used to these crutches, ya know?”

“Oh, phew!” Carrie let out a long relieved breath, and Carrie and Nightingale went back to tussling while Hillary blew out her candle and everyone ate cake.

93

June got nearer and nearer, and everyone was celebrating either birthdays or just the end of another year. Girl of the Hood and Jesse were celebrating the end of the year.

“Ya know, Girl of the Hood, I’m so glad you returned,” Jesse said, sucking on her pinky.

With tears in her eyes, Girl of the Hood said, “Thanks, Jesse. You’ve taught me so much.”

They hugged, Jesse in surprise, because she didn’t know she meant that much to Girl of the Hood, who was…famous! And had a life of her own.

Shanikwa waddled up to them with a cupcake. She pointed to Jesse. “Is she nice, Momma? She good?”

Girl of the Hood laughed and patted her daughter on the head. “Yes, Shanikwa, baby, she good, she good. She my friend.”

Then she bent down so she and Shanikwa were at eye level. “How yo time been with Ms. Hendricks, baby girl? Y’all been havin’ fun, or what?”

“Yeah, Ma. Lots. She let me watch Dora, and we eat chocolate and dress up in funny costumes.”

“Oh good, oh good!”

Jesse grinned at Girl of the Hood, strawberry cake lining her sparkly white teeth.

94

Hillary’s phone rang. She picked it up. “Hello?”

“Hey Hill-Bill, it’s Joe.”

“Hi Joe! What’s up? Oh by the way, I’m wearing the cartilage ring you got me. It’s soooo pretty.”

“Awesome. I wanted to make sure my girl got a good b-day gift from me.”

“Yeah. So what’s up?”

“Well, I was wondering…since ya know the year is almost done…if you wanted to get some ice-cream at Jerry’s.”

If Hillary had been talking to Joe in person, she would have kissed him on the cheek. “Yes, Joe, yes! Yes, yes, yes! I’ll be there in two shakes.”

She hung up, and wanted to make herself look beautiful. B-E-A-U-T-I-F-U-L period.

She dabbed on some makeup, pulled on some jean shorts and a T-shirt that said: JERRY’S ICE-CREAM SHOP IS DA BOMB. Then she slipped on some flowery flip-flops and she was off. (She also had made sure that under her clothes, she had put on a cute string bikini with purple Hawaiian flowers in case Joe wanted to jump in the lake with her, which was right by Jerry’s, holding hands.)

Joe was waiting in front of Jerry’s looking around in green capris and a blue button down short-sleeved shirt.

But the green capris looked all too much like swim trunks—Hillary smiled. He must have had the same idea as her.

Hillary ran up to him and gave him a quick kiss on the lips. “Hi!”

He kissed her back. “Hi!”

“It looks like we had the same idea,” Hillary said, gesturing to his swim trunks.

“Oh, you wore a swim-suit under that? Sweet!”

“Yup!”

Joe ordered a pecan ice-cream cone, and Hillary ordered moose-tracks.

They sat on the comfy beach chairs outside Jerry’s and licked their ice-cream cones until they were down in their bellies.

Then they grinned and Joe took off his shirt, and Hillary took off her shorts and shirt, because she had a bikini under.

Then they held hands, and sprinting up to the lake dock, they said 1…2…3! And jumped in.

95

Since they only had about 3 more weeks of school, all the teachers at Oak Leaf High sat back a little. They didn’t get as much homework, not as many Surprise Quizzes from Mr. Maytoq, and all the teachers seemed nicer and more relaxed.

But Ms. Quintalla, the English teacher for the sophomores, gave them one more assignment—and it was more of a fun one. It was a project, and you did it on a poster. You had to pick one person who you have gotten closer to this year, or who inspires you. Everyone got to work right away.

Hillary had to think. She had gotten closer to both Ivory and Nightingale. How could she pick? But she knew that Ivory was going to pick her, so she decided on Nightingale. Ivory was not offended, and Hillary was right—Ivory chose Hillary. Nightingale chose Hillary.

Part of the project was you had to write what you learned about the person, some good times you had together, photos if you want, all that stuff, so it ended up being really fun.

The sophomores were focusing on this, but the seniors were really just focusing on The Senior Summer Swans Ball.

96

The Senior Summer Swans Ball was the biggest dance of the year—this and Prom. They did this instead of Homecoming. It was an Oak Leaf High tradition.

Every senior girl was fussing over what dress to wear. Most girls were wearing white, since it was the Senior Summer Swans Ball. Carrie was wearing a strapless white dress with black jewels along the back and front. Shannon was wearing an angelic looking white dress also with straps and a golden lining as if she were an angel. No one was awarded Queen or King of the Ball, but all the girls wanted to have the prettiest dress anyway.

Most of the boys wore black tuxedos, but Carrie or Shannon weren’t bringing a boy, they were bringing each other! Duh!

All the seniors got into two groups, all the girls on one side, the boys on the other. (Well, no, your date on the other, in all the lesbian girl’s case. Or the gay boys.)

Each couple went one by one, all the way down the line. They would meet up in the middle of the gym and have a romantic dance or two, while all the others watched them. Each couple got a solo dance. It was wonderful.

Shannon was so looking forward to it, but when she and Carrie had their solo…would her legs be strong enough in time to be dipping and twirling and doing the tango?

97

“Alrighty-o, class, time to present our projects!!” Ms. Quintalla announced excitedly, clapping her hands. “I have written the order on the chalk-board, after coordinating with you students.”

Hillary was first up, and she was bubbling with excitement. Yes, excitement. Thankfully she was excited, not nervous.

She had kept it a secret to Nightingale that she had chosen her, so that’s another reason she was very excited.

Since Hillary wanted to feel confident, she had worn a cute plain white shirt with a pink and green flowery scarf, yellow pants, and the cartilage ring Joe had given her.

“Ok, so the person I chose is Nightingale.” Hillary heard some gasps from her audience. She propped her purple poster up, leaning on the board like Ms. Q told them to, so the class could see. She pointed to the first part of her poster.

“This is a picture of Nightingale and I at my 16th birthday party,” she read. It was a picture of them with their arms around each other with cake flying out of Hillary’s mouth. The class laughed.

She showed the photo of her and Nightingale and the rest of her friends at Prom. “This is us at Prom, me with Joe, Nightingale with Milo…”

She showed a few more pictures and then cleared her throat and read her writing about Nightingale.

“Nightingale moved here from London, I learned that the day we met. I could tell by her accent. I was dead serious she might ask me over for ‘scones and tea’! I first met her at my favorite park, when I was in my ‘secret hideout’. She found me crying and comforted me, and then I shooed her away. But there was something about her that I liked. So I decided to invest further. I did, and thank God, because she is now one of my best friends ever. I look forward to spending time with her in the next 2 years, and I am so thankful, Nightingale, that you moved here from London. You are truly so much to me.”

The class clapped and clapped till their hands hurt, and as Hillary glanced at Nightingale, she saw she saw a happy tear dripping from her cheek.

Ms. Q was clapping loudly too, and she rubbed Hillary’s back and said, “Thank you, Hillary. That was so sweet.”

Hillary sat down and many kids, including Nightingale, gave her high-fives. Next up was Ivory.

It looked like Ivory was trying to look her best too, because she was wearing a yellow skirt, yellow flip-flops, a yellow ‘Life is Good’ shirt that said, ‘Life is Sunny. Enjoy it’ and a yellow necklace and yellow earrings. Wow! Lot of yellow there!

Ivory propped her—yup, you guessed it--yellow poster on the board and said, “The person I chose is Hillary.”

Ivory had pictures of her and Hillary at Prom, at Hillary’s birthday party, them at the pool, them on Ivory’s yellow comforter. Ivory didn’t even know she had taken these!

Ivory pointed the pictures out and then began her speech.

“Hillary is now one of my best friends. I was at Barbara’s Coffee-Shop one day, sittin’ in my favorite seat, when she and her friend Shannon walked up and told me I was sittin’ in their favorite seat. So I smiled and told them they had good taste, and they moved to a different table, a little confused. I learned that their names were Hillary and Shannon, and I liked Hillary a lot—no comment about Shannon”—there was a laugh from the class—“. So the next day at school I found her at her locker and complimented her on her cartilage ring. She seemed really friendly and said, ‘Thanks’, so a little while later, I called her and she told me she had been about to call me! So we started hanging out, and I really liked her, and I’m pretty sure she really liked me.

“So we walked to school together one day and a girl wasn’t being too kind to me and Hillary stood up for me, and that girl was her best friend! She risked her friendship with that girl for me, and I was so proud. To this day, Hillary and I have been through our ups and downs, but she stays true to one of my very best friends.”

Once again the class clapped and clapped and clapped until their hands hurt.

Nightingale did Hillary, and it was funny and sweet to hear the story flipped, of Nightingale meeting Hillary instead of Hillary meeting Nightingale. If that makes sense.

Jesse wrote about Girl of the Hood, and Girl of the Hood wrote about Jesse.

Sooner or later, everyone finished presenting, and there was much hugs from friends to other friends. And Ms. Q even passed out chocolate chip cookies.

98

The Senior Summer of the Swans Ball was finally here. The seniors were buzzing with excitement, and everyone headed to the gym, where all the dances were held, of course.

There were a few tables with white tablecloths with refreshments, and white duct tape where the girls should stand, and where the boys should stand. (Or a girl and a girl or a boy and a boy, but only if you were dating, as I already explained.)

All the girls looked angelic, and all the boys looked very handsome.

Everyone got in their correct spots, and then the music began. The couples went down the line. Carrie and Shannon were in the middle, and finally, it was their turn. Shannon took a shuddery breath and sent a quick prayer up to God, then gave Carrie her best angel smile, and they met in the middle, with Shannon slightly limping, and they danced. They had practiced, thank God, and it was so beautiful some kids started crying. Carrie was careful not to touch Shay’s legs, and she also made sure to hold her tight so she didn’t fall. Carrie twirled Shannon and Shannon stumbled a bit, but then regained her balance. Everything went well, and finally, their turn was over.

They left the gym when Senior Summer of the Swans Ball was over, two angels with their arms around each other.

99

Lily looked down from Heaven at her former classmates. She saw Shannon making leg progress, and she wished her luck and felt happy for her. She saw Carrie getting prepared for college, Girl of the Hood figuring everything out, and so much more. Lily’s eyes twinkled and it brought tears to her eyes. Lenard and Katie’s dad sat next to her on a cloud pillow, watching something else—Lenard and Katie.

                                        ***

Lenard and Katie’s mother was out for a movie with her girlfriends, so Lenard and Katie were at home with Ms. Hendricks, a very popular babysitter on Pickles Ave. She made them chocolate-chip pancakes for dinner, and she prayed with them before bed and tucked them in. Lenard and Katie’s lives were starting to have so much more light since their dad died.

And they didn’t know it, but their dad was watching over them from Heaven, his eyes filled with love.

100

Graduation for Carrie and Shannon was right around the corner, and their hearts were filled with happiness and sadness at the same time. Shannon promised Hillary she’d visit oh so very often, and she held Hillary tight for quite some time until Hillary felt better.

Shannon took Hillary’s face in her hands and said, “Hillary, stick with Ivory and Nightingale and you’ll be fine. Hang in there.”

Hillary cried waterfalls and waterfalls and squeezed Shannon back. “Alright,” she whispered.

101

Carrie Parks, the famous 17-year-old model, begged her mother until her mom could stand it no longer. She had stood up, stomped her foot, and said, “ALRIGHT, Carrie, ALRIGHT! You may attend high school next year.”

“YES!” Carrie was so happy she could barely believe it.

She stayed a model, but worked part-time.

Carrie’s mother chose Oak Leaf High as the best one. “You will attend Oak Leaf High,” she said grumpily.

Carrie hugged her mother. “Oh, thank you, thank you, thank you!”

102

Before school ended, Hillary and Shannon did something they had always wanted to do. They rang Carrie Parks’s doorbell. Carrie herself came to the door, and she looked really happy for some reason.

“Hi!” she said. “Um, who are you?”

“Hi!” Shannon spoke up. “We are like, your biggest fans and we’ve always wanted to meet you and we even live on the same street so we have like, a CONNECTION!”

Hillary jumped up and hugged Carrie. Carrie hugged Hillary back just to be nice. “Um, ok, thanks.”

“Have you ever been to a real school before?” Hillary demanded.

“No, but next year, for my senior year, I am attending Oak Leaf High.”

Hillary screamed really loud. “OHMIGOD, OHMIGOD, OHMIGODDDD!” Hillary yelled. Then she glanced at Shannon and patted her. “Sorry, Shannon.”

Shannon half-smiled. “It’s alright, Hillary. Just keep me updated.”

Hillary smiled back. “I promise I will, Shay.”

They did a pinky hand-shake and then turned back to Carrie Parks. “Well, um, you’re really pretty,” Shannon said awkwardly, and Hill-Bill burst out laughing. “Nice, Shay, nice.”

“Why thank you,” Carrie replied. “That’s why I’m a model.”

“Can we have your autograph?” Hillary asked in awe.

“Yeah, o’course!” Carrie answered and then ran inside to get a purple flare pen. She signed Shannon’s paper, and then Hillary’s. Her signature looked like this:

Carrie Rosanne Parks

“I like your handwriting,” Shannon commented.

“Thanks,” Carrie replied, and then they left.

All the way home, Hillary laughed at Shay for all the awkward things she said to a model she’d always wanted to meet.

103

It was the last day of 1st grade for Dana and Apple-Bottom at Hipder Kai Elementary. They threw a party and watched “The Incredibles” and Apple-Bottom and Dana promised to coordinate over the summer, and then they would see each other in 2nd grade. And if you glanced at the shirt Apple-Bottom was wearing, it said: I LOVE APPLE CORES AND AUTISTIC GIRLS.

104

Finally, it was the last day of school at Oak Leaf High. The last last last last day for Carrie and Shannon, but just the last day till next year for Nightingale, Ivory, and Hillary.

Girl of the Hood wore a denim jean skirt and pink tank-top and Jesse wore a green shirt that said: GIRL OF THE HOOD IS MY IDOL and jean shorts.

Ivory wore her favorite yellow dress with bananas, Nightingale wore a pretty silver dress with sparkles, Hillary wore a casual purple sun-dress, and Carrie wore a T-shirt that said LESBIAN RIGHTS, and so did Shannon. They had planned it.

Everyone cried and said their good-byes and fare-wells and thank you’s and ‘I’ll always remember this’s’ and so on.

Carrie and Shannon were going to the same college—one called Barrel College that had great art and dancing opportunities, which Carrie and Shannon both loved. Carrie loved dancing, Shannon loved art—especially drawing fruit.

And although Carrie and Shay didn’t know it, they had a great life ahead of them.

EPILOGUE

 

If you peered through a window on a cozy little street nearby Barrel College at the address 210 Sheridan Road, you would see two women—one with flaming red hair who was a famous artist, one with blond hair and a bunch of piercings who was a professional dancer—chatting on the couch, while 2 darling children—a boy and a girl, both with strawberry blond hair— played at their feet.

And if you peered in the window next door, you would see a strong African-American woman about 28 years old with an arm around her daughter— a beautiful dark-skinned 16-year-old girl, who was rocking her own baby, with a skinny blond woman standing nearby, gazing upon the baby.

And 2 houses down, you would see a grown British woman with a sparkly nose piercing kissing a newborn baby with her husband right next to her.

A block away, in an apartment, if you looked through that window, you would see a girl with olive colored skin and curly dark hair with a cartilage ring talking to a man with green hair, who was holding a beautiful baby.

In that same apartment, a story up, you would see a 20-year-old blond girl with her hair in pigtails studying with a 21-year-old red-haired man for a big exam.

 Next door to that apartment, you would see a woman with bright blond hair in a yellow dress talking on the phone while her husband rocked a blond baby, and a man with gelled black hair in a green bow-tie made dinner—he was their nanny who lived with them.

3 blocks away, if you peered in through the stain glass window of the orange house with a chimney, you would see a very beautiful woman who looked like a model sitting on the couch next to a man who was her husband, rubbing her belly, which was 9 months pregnant.

And if you looked up into the sky in Heaven, you would see a woman with pink hair and an old man who was the father of 2 siblings smiling down at them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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