Every Day Page 9

The best I can hope for is a quiet sibling. At first I have Owen pegged as one of those. In the car, it appears I am wrong. But then, once we get out at school, it appears I am right again. With other kids around, he retreats into invisibility, keeping his head down as he makes his way inside, leaving me completely behind. No goodbye, no have-a-nice-day. Just a quick glance to see that my door is closed before he locks the car.

“What are you looking at?” a voice asks from over my left shoulder as I watch him enter school alone.

I turn around and do some serious accessing.

Carrie. Best friend since fourth grade.

“Just my brother.”

“Why? He’s such a waste of space.”

Here’s the strange thing: I am fine thinking the same words myself, but hearing them come out of Carrie’s mouth makes me feel defensive.

“Come on,” I say.

“Come on? Are you kidding me?”

Now I think: She knows something I don’t. I decide to keep my mouth shut.

She seems relieved to change the subject.

“What did you do last night?” she asks.

Flashes of Rhiannon rise in my mind’s eye. I try to tamp them down, but they’re not that easy to contain. Once you experience enormity, it lingers everywhere you look, and wants to be every word you say.

“Not much,” I push on, not bothering to access Leslie. This answer always works, no matter what the question. “You?”

“You didn’t get my text?”

I mumble something about my phone dying.

“That explains why you haven’t asked me yet! Guess what. Corey IM’d me! We chatted for, like, almost an hour.”


“Yeah, isn’t it?” Carrie sighs contentedly. “After all this time. I didn’t even know he knew my screen name. You didn’t tell him, did you?”

More accessing. This is the kind of question that can really trip a person up. Maybe not right away. But in the future. If Leslie claims she wasn’t the one who told Corey, and Carrie finds out she was, it could throw their friendship off balance. Or if Leslie claims she was, and Carrie finds out she wasn’t.

Corey is Corey Handlemann, a junior who Carrie’s had a crush on for at least three weeks. Leslie doesn’t know him well, and I can’t find a memory of giving a screen name to him. I think it’s safe.

“No,” I say, shaking my head. “I didn’t.”

“Well, I guess he really had to work hard to find it,” she says. (Or, I think, he just saw it on your Facebook profile.)

I immediately feel guilty for my snarky thoughts. This is the hard part about having best friends that I feel no attachment to—I don’t give them any benefit of the doubt. And being best friends is always about the benefit of the doubt.

Carrie is very excited about Corey, so I pretend to be very excited for her. It’s only after we separate for homeroom that I feel an emotion kicking at me, one I thought I had under control: jealousy. Although I am not articulating it to myself in so many words, I am feeling jealous that Carrie can have Corey while I can never have Rhiannon.

Ridiculous, I chastise myself. You are being ridiculous.

When you live as I do, you cannot indulge in jealousy. If you do, it will rip you apart.

Third period is band class. I tell the teacher that I left my clarinet at home, even though it’s in my locker. Leslie gets marked down and has to take the class as a study hall, but I don’t care.

I don’t know how to play the clarinet.

Word about Carrie and Corey travels fast. All of our friends are talking about it, and mostly they’re pleased. I can’t tell, though, whether they’re pleased because it’s a perfect match or because now Carrie will shut up about it.

When I see Corey at lunchtime, I am unsurprised by how unremarkable he is. People are rarely as attractive in reality as they are in the eyes of the people who are in love with them. Which is, I suppose, as it should be. It’s almost heartening to think that the attachment you have can define your perception as much as any other influence.

Corey comes over at lunch to say hi, but he doesn’t stay to eat with us, even though we make room for him at our table. Carrie doesn’t seem to notice this; she’s just giddy that he’s come by, that she didn’t dream the whole IM exchange, that chatting has escalated into speaking … and who knows what will happen next? As I suspected, Leslie does not move in a fast crowd. These girls are thinking of kissing, not sex. The lips are the gates of their desire.

I want to run away again, to skip the second half of the day.

But it wouldn’t be right, without her.

It feels like I am wasting time. I mean, that’s always the case. My life doesn’t add up to anything.

Except, for an afternoon, it did.

Yesterday is another world. I want to go back there.

Early sixth period, right after lunch, my brother is called down to the principal’s office.

At first I think I may have heard it wrong. But then I see other people in class looking at me, including Carrie, who has pity in her eyes. So I must have heard it right.

I am not alarmed. I figure if it was something really bad, they would have called us both. Nobody in my family has died. Our house hasn’t burned down. It’s Owen’s business, not mine.

Carrie sends me a note. What happened?

I send a shrug in her direction. How am I supposed to know?

I just hope I haven’t lost my ride home.

Sixth period ends. I gather my books and head to English class. The book is Beowulf, so I’m completely prepared. I’ve done this unit plenty of times.

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