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Chapter One

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ONE

Sabine's car sits in the driveway like a tombstone. Bird droppings cover half the windshield and if you were in Ms. Bowerman's art class, she'd tell you they were beautiful as a Kandinsky. All toothpasty, thick, yellowish-white-interesting, maybe, but not beautiful. Not even pretty. Every day this month on my way to the bus stop I've passed those splatters on that dead Volvo and I feel it crying for Sabine. Inside, where its cold engine gets colder every day, I imagine that the car is aching for the girl who's now ashes heaped in a piece of Asian crockery. If I were that car, I'd wonder what happened to the girl who used to blast music and rev the engine and peel out of the high school parking lot much too fast each day. 

Dad almost put the car on Craig's List, but then he didn't. "Little Bird, you're old enough for your license," he said. "Maybe we should save the Volvo for you." 

I don't want my dead sister's car, but I nodded. Best not to argue with Dad these days. 

It's the daffodils and tulips time of year. The warm of spring, more than a hint in the air. More smiles on dog- walkers' faces. Kids out past dinner shooting their winter-flat basketballs into bent and rusty hoops up and down our street. On the way to the bus, when I pass neighbors, they do that shy smile thing. Then look away. Just seeing me, I know it makes them sad all over again. A month is beyond when "sorry for your loss" seems appropriate, but not enough time has passed for people to be all normal and happy around me.

I'm supposed to be part of the Greenmeadow Art Show tonight. They're giving me the Lilith Cupworth prize for my charcoal drawing of a homeless guy and his dog. The Portland Journal will do a piece for the Life & Lifestyles section. Clap, clap. Good for you. Here's your five-hundred dollar scholarship. Sorry your sister's dead. 

My leggings and Goodwill coat, my purple Keds, the front half of my hair dyed emerald and the henna tattoo around my wrist like a bracelet-that's the uniform they all know Brady Wilson by, the way I was different than my cheerleader sister. But it's all just a stupid costume. A couple more months and then junior year is over. Maybe I won't even go back in September. 

I kick a crumpled PBR can someone tossed near a bush. In my head, there's the rhythm of Sabine's voice chanting just like she's still here, playing our childhood game, safety, danger, safety, danger, past the various lawns on my street. I hear the bus squeaking to a stop around the corner. I should run, but don't.

                                                    * * *

When I get to school it's the after-the-bell silence. The retired- cop-hall-monitor guy peeks at me over his bifocals. His eyebrows say Really? Sometimes I nod an acknowledgement that I'm pushing it, but today I don't even do that. I'm numb. Empty. When will I look forward to the next thing? When will I feel like myself again? 

"Take a seat, Ms. Wilson," says the trig teacher when I creep into class. 

On the board are sin, cos, tan and pi. The wiggly line graph. It always kills me when a teacher calls a girl Mizz instead of Miss. As if. I forgot my calculator again, so another period wasted. 

Once I'm settled in my chair, next to me Trey Markham farts. Then he offers the I just farted grin. A girl behind him giggles. The teacher scribbles a function on the greenish board. Then, immediately, he turns on the overhead projector and pulls the screen down over what he just scratched onto the greenboard. "Who can tell me..." he starts. He mentions something called a cosecant. Trey squeaks out another one as if prompted by a word that sounds sort of bowelish. 

"Mr. Markham," says the teacher. "This information will be covered on the SATs this Saturday. Maybe you'd like to go entertain yourself in private while the rest of your classmates learn what they need to in order to get into college." 

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