Chapters 1-3

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By Mari Mancusi

Chapter One

“Hey, Dawn, whatcha writing?”

I slam my notebook shut and force a wide smile as my friend Ashley approaches the lunch table. I can’t believe it. She’s five minutes early. Five minutes! After I’ve already gone and used up one of my three-bathroom-breaks- a-semester chemistry  class privileges for a few precious moments of writing time. And now Ashley has shown up and ruined it all.

The early bird gets the chance to tick Dawn off. . . . “Nothing,” I say, forcing a casual shrug. “Just a birth-

day wish list. You know how The Evil Ones are. Left to their own devices I’d probably end up with some itchy Harvard letter sweater for my sweet sixteen.”

I’d actually been working on a poem, not a birthday list. One I plan to enter in a contest sponsored by Faces, a local Massachusetts literary magazine. But I am certain- ly not about to inform our head cheerleader of that little technicality.  I mean, writing poetry? How geeky can you get? And The Evil Ones (aka Mom and Dad) are terrible in the presents department, so it’s not like I’m telling a total lie. . . .

“Oh cool.” Ashley flounces onto the chair beside me, her wool plaid skirt puffing up and then settling back down over her perfectly sculpted thighs. We all wear the same skirts here as sophomores at Sacred Mary’s, but Ashley's skirt usually falls at least two inches shorter than regulation and it constantly gets her in  trouble with  the  Sisters. “You should ask for those Seven Jeans we saw at Nordstrom the other day.”

“The ones with  the crystals on the back pocket?” I look up and see that Ashley #2 has arrived at our lunch table. Like Ashley #1, she’s blond and lanky and wears her skirts too short. Her claim to fame is being picked as homecoming queen last fall, even though she’s  only a sophomore. “Those are completely lame. When shopping for jeans,  I say go James every time. They’re scientifically designed to  make your butt  look smaller, not draw attention to it with crystals.”

I stifle a groan. I love my friends, don’t get me wrong. But there are times I’m not quite sure I fit in with them. I mean yeah, I’d rather be here than at the loser table dis- cussing games like Magic: The Gathering, but is it really necessary for us to debate the pros and cons of designer denim every single lunch? Doesn’t anyone talk politics anymore? Not that I know anything about politics, but maybe  I could start learning if someone brought them up once in a while. It’d probably prove more useful in life than the Fashionista 101 sessions we seem to hold every lunch period.

“You guys are crazy!” Oh, there’s Ashley #3, making our lunch group complete. She swings her Kate Spade messenger bag off her shoulder and plops it on the floor. We consider Ashley #3 the brainy one. She’s president of the student council and wants to be a TV anchorwoman when she grows up. I think she has a good shot at the job. She’s already got the brilliant white capped teeth and perfect hair. “Obviously Levi’s makes the best jeans known to mankind.”

The other two Ashleys groan in sync. “No way would I be caught dead in Levi’s,” says Ashley #1.

“That’s ’cause you’re a lemming,” Ashley #3 explains, using the big word with a smug pride. She knows for a fact Ashley #1 won’t know what it means and she’s right.

“Hey! What did you just call me?”

“Girls, girls! Let us not fight over fashion,” Ashley #2, the peacemaker, coos. She took a yoga class once and has been all Buddha-on-the-mountain ever since. “Our differ- ent tastes in denim make the world go round.” She holds her palms out and smiles demurely. For a minute I think she’s going to actually break out into an “Ohmmm.”

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