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Angelyn Stark has a secret. One day, her neighbor and friend, Nathan, saw something happen. Something between Angelyn and her stepfather. Then he told his grandmother, who was always looking out for Angelyn, and it turned into a mess. But Nathan didn't know what he was talking about then, and he doesn't know now. Three years later, Angelyn is in high school and she thinks she's getting along fine--but there's a young teacher who wants to help her. He says she has potential she isn't living up to. Nobody has ever cared this way about Angelyn, not since Nathan's grandmother, anyway. But what does Mr. Rossi really want from her? And once Angelyn starts falling for him, does she really care? From the Hardcover edition.
New girl walks through the three of us smoking in the bathroom. Jacey and me on the sinks, our long legs dangling. Charity, opposite, leaning against a partition.
“She must think she’s hot,” Charity says as the girl disappears into a stall.
I try and think if I’ve seen her before. One thing’s for sure.
New girl doesn’t know about us.
You don’t use this bathroom without asking first. Not during morning break.
Ten-thirty to ten-forty, Monday through Friday, the second-floor Vocational Building girls’ room belongs to us. Everybody knows it.
We snicker when we hear the girl peeing. As if we’ve never done that. Charity moves to the stall and thumps a fist against the door. Once. Twice. The flow stops. And starts. Jacey and I exchange a grin.
“Thinks she’s so cool,” Jacey says when the girl comes out . She’s scared. Dark eyes taking us in. Ballerina body. Charity’s in her face, twice her size.
I push off from the sink. Jacey does too. I flick my cigarette to the drain. Jacey drops hers on the floor. I’m warm watching the girl squirm, warm in my stomach like I’ve just had cocoa. Curious too. Excited. I’m not bored.
We take Charity’s back, a triangle of tough.
“This is our space,” Charity says.
“I didn’t know.” The girl’s voice comes out dry.
We have her blocked. The only way out that doesn’t go through us is the window high on the wall behind her. It’s a long way down.
“Did you have a good pee?” Charity asks.
“The way you were banging--” The girl takes a breath. “I thought you wanted to come in and see for yourself.”
That makes me laugh. The girl lifts her chin. In profile, in the speckled mirror, she looks proud. Pretty girl in crap clothes. No makeup.
“During break we come in here to smoke,” I say. “The first-floor girls’ room is where you want to be.”
“What if I want to smoke?” the girl asks.
“Try Mr. Rossi’s room, down the hall,” Jacey says. “He’s a sweetie. He’ll let you, no problem.”
She’s messing with her. Mr. Rossi would never.
“Got it,” the girl says. “Now can I go?”
I lean to a sink and flip the water on. “Wash your hands first.”
“Wouldn’t want to be unsanitary,” Jacey says.
“Pig.” From Charity.
The girl’s eyes get wide. “Don’t call me that.”
Charity steps in. “I’ll call you whatever.”
The girl stumbles from her. “I don’t want to be late.”
“Then wash,” Jacey says.
Time twitches at me. “Hey, I don’t want to be late either.”
Charity looks at me. “Don’t try to stop this.”
“I’m not,” I say. “But you know Mr. Rossi.”
“He’ll wait for you,” she says.
“Maybe we should go,” Jacey says.
“Come on!” Charity’s whining. “We’ve got time.”
The girl starts through us. Charity hip-checks her to the sink.
“Wash your damn hands,” she says in a voice that would scare me.
The girl stands head down. She takes a shuddery breath.
“I’ll fight you. All three. Is that how it is here?”
Charity watches her. Jacey is still.
“This school sucks,” I say. “Where are you from?”
“The Bay Area,” the girl says. “San Jose. I know how to fight.”
Small as she is, it’s hard to believe.
“What, you got a knife?” Charity asks.
The girl holds up her hands. “I got claws.”
Her nails are short. Unpainted. No-style, like the rest of her.
“Is she trying to be funny?” Jacey asks.
“Wash,” I tell the girl. “Then we all can leave.”
The water’s run hot. Steam on the mirror.
“This is my first day at Blue Creek High,” the girl says.
“Aww. Poor you,” Jacey says.
“Angelyn, make her do it,” Charity says. “Make her wash her hands.”
The first bell goes off. Five minutes to World Cultures.
I stand back. “I’m not being late for this.”
“Yeah, let her be dirty,” Jacey says.
Charity jabs a finger at the girl. “Watch yourself.”
We turn our backs on her.
“Angelyn,” the girl says. “You’re not Angelyn Stark?”
Jacey and Charity look at each other.
“Yeah, I am Angelyn Stark,” I say. “You think you know me?”
The girl says no. “But I know someone who does.”
I wave my friends out. Charity peeks back. I wait.
“Who knows me?” I ask when we’re alone.
The girl walks to the sink, adjusts the temperature, and sticks her hands under.
“My mom is an aide at a nursing home. I was talking with one of the residents, and she said she knew a girl who goes here. You.”
I watch her scrub. “I don’t know anyone like that.”
“Thanks for not letting that girl kill me, by the way.”
“I wanted to leave on time. That was it.”
She shuts off the water. “Thanks, still. I’m Jeni Traynor.”
“I guess we should both leave,” Jeni says.
“Wait,” I say as she hoists her backpack.
“Don’t worry. I won’t come in here again.”
I shake my head. “What exactly did this resident say about me?”
“Well--that you used to be neighbors.”
I get cold. “Is her name Mrs. Daly?”
“The residents go by first names, mostly. Hers is Eleanor.”
“Eleanor Daly.” I nod. “Don’t talk to her again.”
Jeni blinks. “What?”
“You heard me. Stay away from her.”
“But--Eleanor didn’t say much, and all I did was listen.”
My chest is tight. “All you did was listen to crap about me.”
“No! She said nice things.”
Even worse. “You don’t talk to her, you don’t talk about me. My friends will know if you do, and they’ll tell me.”
“Those girls?” Jeni shudders. “I wouldn’t say a thing around them.”
“So why’d you talk to me? I’m the same as they are.”
She searches me. “Hey, Angelyn, I’m sorry.”
“You will be,” I say. Staring.
Jeni takes a step back. “Eleanor said you’d be friendly. Not like this.”