“What do you want, Brooklyn?” I ask.
I am sitting in the cafeteria doing a little last-minute cramming for my Latin test next period.
“Oh, Lucy, is that any way to talk to a friend?” Brooklyn smiles.
Brooklyn Quinn is thin. Everyone knows that she wears a size zero— a size that is not even technically a number. It is a concept, a representation of null. Nothing. Therefore, logic would dictate that Brooklyn Quinn is nothing, as well. Unfortunately, that’s not the way tenth grade reasoning works.
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I am the one who is nothing.
My name is Lucinda Maroon Goozee. Yep, that’s right. Lucy Goozee. No, my parents do not hate me. They just weren’t gifted with a great deal of parental foresight. Nor did their genes comingle to create a stunning beauty. I’m not saying that I am hideous, but boys aren’t exactly lining up to kiss me. Add a size twelve dress, a mouth full of metal, and an uncanny fluency in Latin and elvish to the Lucy Goozee moniker, and I am headed straight for a stag appearance at this year’s prom.
As you can imagine, I’m not exactly one of the “it” girls at Benson High School. That honor happens to belong to Brooklyn and her like-minded cohorts—Aspen and Cheyenne. Apparently, city names were hot fifteen years ago. Leave it to my parents to buck a trend.
“Where are the other city girls?” I ask casually, as if it is a common occurrence for Brooklyn to talk to me.
“Aspen and Cheyenne? They’re right over there.” Brooklyn points a thin, red-tipped finger at a crowded table across the room. Aspen and Cheyenne giggle and wave.
“So what’s up?” I ask. I place my unpolished finger on the page of my book so I don’t lose my place and glance up.
“I’m having a party this weekend. I thought you might be interested.”
“A party? Seriously?”
Brooklyn laughs; a melodious sound that wafts across the breezeless cafeteria. “Of course I’m serious. We’re in tenth grade now. I think it’s time we become friends.”
“Umm, sure. Okay.”
“My house. Seven o’clock. Saturday.”
I flash a metal smile at Brooklyn. “I’ll be there.”
“You better be.”
“Come on in, Goozee.” Jack greets me at the door with a can of Bud Light in his hand. “You want a brew?”
“Um, no thanks,” I say. “Do you have any soda?”
Jack shrugs and grins that crooked smile he perfected in third grade. “Hell, I don’t know. Try the kitchen.” He walks away and collapses dramatically on the couch next to Cheyenne, who explodes in giggles before planting a kiss on his lips.
I stand near the door and look around. Teenage bodies are draped across every surface of the room. The air is thick with the smell of liquor and longing and loathing. What am I thinking? I don’t belong here. I turn to leave just as someone grabs my arm.
“Lucy! You made it!” Brooklyn propels me into the center of the living room and announces loudly, “You guys! The guest of honor is finally here!”
I feel a surge of heat wash over my face as the group begins to applaud and cheer.
“What’s this all about?” I ask.
“Don’t act like you don’t know,” Brooklyn replies. Once again, she turns toward the group of twenty or so teenagers assembled in her house. “She wants to know what this is all about.”
The crowd whoops and hollers and laughs.
“Seriously.” I feel a trickle of sweat slide down the small of my back. “What’s going on?”
“You think you won,” Brooklyn says, a twinkle of humor in her blue eyes.
“The lottery!” Jack yells from the couch. The crowd once again bursts into laughter.
“What’s going on?” I demand.
Brooklyn leans toward me until she is no more than an inch from my face. The humor in her eyes is gone. “You think you’re cute, huh?”
“What?” I have no idea what Brooklyn is talking about.
“You think just because you’re smart and have curly hair and curves in all the right places that you’re better than me?”
“I’m not…I mean…I’m not better than—”
“I don’t want to hear it. You’re not better than me!”
“You’re not prettier than me. I’m the fairest in all the land!”
“You heard me. I’m the fairest in all the land. You’re nothing….Snow White!”
“What the hell are you talking about?! Snow White?” Obviously, Brooklyn was in the midst of some sort of psychotic breakdown. “Brooklyn, you’re scaring me.”
“Don’t play games with me, princess. I know who you are. Even in this realm, I recognize you. I knew you the minute I laid eyes on you!”
I turn to flee toward the door, but Jack—certainly quicker than he was in third grade—moves faster and blocks the door before I can get there.
“Sorry, Snow,” he says. He averts his eyes and takes another chug of his beer. “My Queen commands me.”
“This is crazy,” I say, turning to face Brooklyn. “I’m not Snow White and you’re not the Evil Queen.”
“Who said anything about evil?” Brooklyn sneers. “I think we all know who the evil one is.”
“I’m not evil.”
“Oh yes, my dear. You’re quite evil.”
I turn toward Jack again—sweet, dumb Jack who seems as uncomfortable being in Brooklyn’s house as I am. I pull my leg back and let it swing forward as hard as I can, grimacing as it makes contact. An odd squeaking noise escapes Jack’s lips before he doubles over in pain, grabbing his crotch with both hands.
“I’m so sorry, Jack,” I whisper over his slumped body before bolting out the door.
As I run down the sidewalk, an explosion of green light erupts from Brooklyn’s house and a raging voice disturbs the evening silence.
“Bring me her heart!”