I lose everything. Keys, my wallet, money, library books. People don’t even take it seriously anymore. Like when I lost the hundred dollars my grandma gave me for back-to-school shopping, my mom didn’t blink an eye. She was all, “Oh, Eliza, you should have given it to me to hold on to” and then she just went on with her day.
I try not to really stress out about it anymore. I mean, the things I lose eventually show up. And if they don’t, I can always replace them.
Except for my purple notebook. My purple notebook is completely and totally irreplaceable. It’s not like I can just march into the Apple store and buy another one. Which is why it totally figures that after five years of keeping very close tabs on it (Five years! I’ve never done anything consistently for five years!) I’ve lost it.
“What are you doing?” my best friend Clarice asks. She’s sitting at my computer in the corner of my room, IMing with her cousin Jamie. Clarice showed up at nine o’clock this morning, with a huge bag of Cheetos and a six-pack of soda. “I’m ready to party,” she announced when I opened my front door. Then she pushed past me and marched up to my room.
I tried to point out that it was way too early to be up on a Saturday, but Clarice didn’t care because: (a) she’s a morning person and (b) she thought the weekend needed to start asap, since my parents are away for the night, and she figured we should maximize the thirty-six-hour window of their absence.
“I’m looking for something,” I say from under my bed. My body is shoved halfway under, rooting around through the clothes, papers, and books that have somehow accumulated under there since the last time I cleaned. Which was, you know, months ago. My hand brushes against something wet and hard. Hmm.
“What could you possibly be looking for?” she asks. “We have everything we need right here.”
“If you’re referring to the Cheetos,” I say, “I’m sorry, but I think I’m going to need a little more than that.”
“No one,” Clarice declares, “needs more than Cheetos.” She takes one out of the bag and slides it into her mouth, chewing delicately. Clarice is from the South, and for some reason, when she moved here a couple of years ago, she’d never had Cheetos. We totally bonded over them one day in the cafeteria, and ever since then, we’ve been inseparable. Me, Clarice, and Cheetos. Not necessarily in that order.
“So what are you looking for?” she asks again.
“Just my notebook,” I say. “The purple one.”
“Oooh,” she says. “Is that your science notebook?”
“No,” I say.
“Math?” she tries.
“No,” I say.
“It’s just this notebook I need,” I say. I abandon the wet, hard mystery object under the bed, deciding I can deal with it later. And by later, I mean, you know, never.
“What kind of notebook?” she presses.
“Just, you know, a notebook,” I lie. My face gets hot, and I hurry over to my closet and open the door, turning my back to her so that she can’t see I’m getting all flushed.
The thing is, no one really knows the truth about what’s in my purple notebook. Not Clarice, not my other best friend, Marissa, not even my sister, Kate. The whole thing is just way too embarrassing. I mean, a notebook that lists every thing that you’re afraid of doing? Like, written down? In ink? Who does that? It might be a little bit crazy, even. Like, for real crazy. Not just “oh isn’t that charming and endearing” crazy but “wow that might be a deep-seated psychological issue” crazy.
But I started the notebook when I was twelve, so I figure I have a little bit of wiggle room in the psychiatric disorders department. And besides, it was totally started under duress. There was this whole situation, this very real possibility that my dad was going to get a job transfer to a town fifty miles away. My whole family was going to move to a place where no one knew us.
So of course in my deluded little twelve-year-old brain, I became convinced that if I could just move to a different house and a different town, I’d be a totally different person. I’d leave my braces and frizzy hair behind, and turn myself into a goddess. No one would know me at my new school, so I could be anyone I wanted, not just “Kate Sellman’s little sister, Eliza.” I bought a purple notebook at the drugstore with my allowance, and I started writing down all the things I was afraid to do at the time, but would of course be able to do in my new school.
They were actually pretty lame at first, like French kiss a boy, or ask a boy to the dance, or wear these ridiculous tight pants that all the girls were wearing that year. But somehow putting them down on paper made me feel better, and after my dad’s job transfer fell through, I kept writing in it. And writing in it, and writing in it, and writing in it. And, um, I still write in it. Not every day or anything. Just occasionally.
Of course, the things I list have morphed a little over the years from silly to serious. I still put dumb things in, like wanting to wear a certain outfit, but I have more complicated things in there too. Like how I wish I had the nerve to go to a political rally, or how I wish I could feel okay about not knowing what I want to major in when I go to college. And the fact that these very embarrassing and current things are WRITTEN DOWN IN MY NOTEBOOK means I have to find it. Like, now.
The doorbell rings as I’m debating whether or not the notebook could be in my parents’ car, traveling merrily on its way to the antique furniture conference they went to. This would be good, since (a) it would at least be safe, but bad because (a) what if my parents read it and (b) I won’t be able to check the car until they get home, which means I will spend the entire weekend on edge and freaking out.
“That’s probably Marissa,” I say to Clarice.
Clarice groans and rolls her blue eyes. “Why is she coming over?” she asks. She pouts out her pink-glossed bottom lip.
“Because she’s our friend,” I say. Which is only a half truth. Marissa is my friend, and Clarice is my friend, and Marissa and Clarice … well … they have this weird sort of love/hate relationship. They both really love each other deep down (at least, I think they do), but Marissa thinks Clarice is a little bit of an airhead and kind of a tease, and Clarice thinks Marissa is a little crazy and slightly slutty. They’re both kind of right.
Marissa must have gotten tired of waiting and just let herself in, because a second later she appears in my doorway.
“What are you doing in there?” she asks.
“I’m looking for something,” I say from inside my closet, where I’m throwing bags, sweaters, belts, and shoes over my shoulder in an effort to see if my notebook has somehow been buried at the bottom. I try to remember the last time I wrote in it. I think it was last week. I had dinner with my sister and then I wrote about what I would say to … Well. What I would say to a certain person. If I had the guts to, I mean. And if I ever wanted to even think or talk about that person again, which I totally don’t.
“What something?” Marissa asks. She steps gingerly through the disaster area that is now my room and plops down on the bed.
“A notebook,” Clarice says. Her fingers are flying over the keyboard of my laptop as she IMs.
“You mean like for school?” Marissa asks. “You said this was going to be our party weekend! No studying allowed!”
“Yeah!” Clarice says, agreeing with Marissa for once. She holds the bag out to her. “You want a Cheeto?” Marissa takes one.
“No,” I say, “You guys said this was going to be our party weekend.” Although, honestly, we don’t really party all that much. At least, I don’t. “All I said was, ‘My parents are going away on Saturday, do you want to come over and keep me company?’”
“Yes,” Clarice says. “And that implies party weekend.”
“Yeah,” Marissa says. “Come on, Eliza, we have to at least do something.”
“Like what?” I ask.
“Like invite some guys over,” Clarice says.
Marissa nods in agreement, then adds, “And go skinny dipping and get drunk.”
And then Clarice gets a super-nervous look on her face, and she quickly rushes on to add, “I mean, not guys guys. I mean, not guys to like date or anything. Just to … I mean, I don’t know if you’re ready to, or if you even want to—oh, crap, Eliza, I’m sorry.” She bites her lip, and Marissa shoots her a death glare, her brown eyes boring into Clarice’s blue ones.
“It’s fine,” I say. “You guys don’t have to keep tiptoeing around it. I am completely and totally over him.” I’m totally lying, and they totally know it. The thing is, three and a half weeks ago, I got dumped by Cooper Marriatti, a.k.a. the last person I wrote about in my notebook, a.k.a. the person who I never, ever want to talk about again. (Obviously I can say his name while defending myself from the allegation that I still like him—that is a total exception to the “never bring his name up again” rule.) I really liked him, but it didn’t work out. To put it mildly. Cooper did something really despicable to me, and for that reason, I am totally over it.
“Of course you are,” Clarice says, nodding her head up and down. “And of course I know we don’t have to tiptoe around it.”
“I heard he didn’t get into Brown,” Marissa announces. I snap my head up and step out of my closet, interested in spite of myself.
“What do you mean?” I ask. Cooper is a senior, a year older than us, and his big dream was to get into Brown. Seriously, it was all his family could talk about. It was pretty annoying, actually, now that I think about it. I mean, I don’t think he even really wanted to go to Brown. He just applied because his parents wanted him to, and the only reason they even wanted him to go was because his dad went there, and his grandpa went there, and maybe even his great-grandpa went there. If Brown was even around then. Anyway, the point is, the fact that he didn’t get in is a big deal. To him and his family, I mean. Obviously, I could care less.
“Yeah,” Marissa says. “Isabella Royce told me.” She quickly averts her eyes. Ugh. Isabella Royce. She’s the girl Cooper is now rumored to be dating, this totally ridiculous sophomore. She’s very exotic-looking with long, straight dark hair, perfect almond-shaped eyes, and dark skin. I hate her.
“Anyway,” I say.
“Yeah, anyway,” Clarice says. She holds out the bag of Cheetos, and this time I take one. “Oooh,” she says as I crunch away. “Looks like Jeremiah added some new Facebook pictures.” She leans over and squints at the screen of my laptop. She’s saying this just to mess with Marissa. Jeremiah is the guy Marissa likes. They hook up once in a while, and it’s kind of a … I guess you would say, booty-call situation. Meaning that, you know, Jeremiah calls her when he wants to hook up, and Marissa keeps waiting for it to turn into something else.
“That’s nice,” Marissa says, trying to pretend she doesn’t care. “Here,” she says, picking a stack of letters up off the bed and holding them out to me. “I brought you your mail.”
“Thanks,” I say, flipping through it aimlessly. I hardly ever get mail, but sometimes my sister, Kate, will get a catalog or something sent to her, and since she’s away at college, I can hijack it. But today there actually is a letter for me. Well, to me and my parents. It’s from the school.
“What’s that?” Marissa asks, noticing me looking at it. She’s off the bed now and over in the corner, picking through the mound of clothes I hefted out of my closet. She picks a shirt off the pile on the floor, holds it in front of herself, and studies her reflection in the full-length mirror. “Are my boobs crooked?” she asks suddenly. She grabs them and pushes them together through her shirt. “I think maybe my boobs are crooked.”
“Your boobs,” I say, rolling my eyes, “are not crooked.” Clarice stays noticeably quiet and Marissa frowns.
“They’re definitely crooked,” Marissa says. I slide my finger under the envelope flap and pull out the piece of paper.
“You should really hope that’s not true,” Clarice says sagely. She whirls around on my desk chair and studies Marissa.
“Why not?” Marissa asks.
“Because there’s no way to really correct that,” Clarice says. “Like, if your boobs are too big, you can get them reduced; if they’re too droopy, you can get them lifted. But for crooked boobs, I dunno.” She looks really worried, like Marissa’s crooked boobs might mean the end of her. “Although I guess maybe you could get them, like, balanced or something.” She grins, totally proud of herself for coming up with this idea.
“Hmm,” Marissa says. She smoothes her long brown hair back from her face. “You’re right. There’s no, like, boob-straightening operation.”
“You guys,” I say, “are nuts.” I look down at the folded piece of paper in my hand, which is probably some kind of invitation to Meet-the-Teacher-Night or something.
Dear Eliza, Mr. and Mrs. Sellman,
This letter is to advise you that we will be having a preliminary hearing on Tuesday, November 17, at 2:00 p.m., to discuss Eliza’s response to the recent slander complaint that has been filed against her. Eliza will be called on to talk about her experience with the website LanesboroLosers.com including her involvement and participation in the comments that were posted on October 21, about a student, Cooper Marriatti.
Please be advised that all of you will be allowed to speak.
If you have any questions, please feel free to give me a call at 555-0189, ext. 541.
Graham Myers, Dean of Students
Oh. My. God.
“What the hell,” I say, “is this?” I start waving the paper around, flapping it back and forth in the air, not unlike the way a crazy person might do.
“What the hell is what?” Marissa asks. She drops her boobs, crosses the room in two strides, and plucks the paper out of my hand. She scans it, then looks at Clarice.
“Oh,” she says. Clarice jumps up off her perch at my desk and takes the paper from Marissa. She reads it, and then Clarice and Marissa exchange a look. One of those looks you never, ever want to see your best friends exchanging. One of those, “Uh-oh, we have a secret and do we really want to tell her?” looks.
“What?” I demand. I narrow my eyes at the both of them. “What do you two know about this?”
Marissa bites her lip. “Wel-l-l-l,” she says. “I’m not sure if it’s true.”
“Not sure if what’s true?” I say.
“It’s nothing,” Clarice says. She gives Marissa another look, one that says, “Let’s not tell her, we’re going to freak her out too much.”
“Totally,” Marissa says. “It’s nothing.”
“Someone,” I say, “had better tell me exactly what this nothing is.” I put my hands on my hips and try to look menacing.
“I heard it from Marissa,” Clarice says, sounding nervous.
“I heard it from Kelsey Marshall,” Marissa says.
“HEARD WHAT?” I almost scream. I mean, honestly.
“Wel-l-l-l,” Marissa says again. “The rumor is that Cooper didn’t get into Brown because of what you wrote about him on Lanesboro Losers.”
“But that’s … that doesn’t make any sense.” I frown, and Marissa and Clarice exchange another disconcerting look.
Lanesboro Losers is a website that my older sister, Kate, started last year when she was a senior. The concept is simple: Every guy in our school is listed and has a profile. Kind of like Facebook, except Kate set up profiles for every guy—so basically they’re on there, whether they like it or not. Under each guy’s picture is a place for people to leave comments with information they may have about that guy and how he is when it comes to girls.
So, like, for example—if you date a guy and then you find out he has a girlfriend who goes to another school, you can log on, find his profile, and write, “You should be careful about this guy since the ass has a girlfriend who goes to another school.”
It’s pretty genius when you think about it. Kate got the idea when a bunch of the boys at our school started this list ranking the hottest girls in school. Only it wasn’t just like “the top eight hottest girls” or whatever. They ranked them all the way down to the very last one. Kate, who was number 1 on the list, was outraged. So she decided to fight back and started Lanesboro Losers. Even though she’s at college now, she keeps up with the hosting and has a bunch of girls from our school acting as moderators. (I would totally be a moderator if I could, but again, another thing I’m afraid of—the moderators take a certain amount of abuse at school from the guys who know what they do.)
“What do you mean he didn’t get into Brown because of what I wrote about him?” I ask now, mulling this new information over in my head.
“He didn’t get into Brown because of what you wrote about him,” Marissa repeats.
“I heard you the first time,” I say. “But that makes zero sense.”
“It totally makes sense,” Clarice says. “Apparently the Brown recruiter Googled him, and when they read what you wrote about his math test, they brought it up at his interview and basically told him his early decision application was getting rejected.”
I sit down on the bed. “That thing I wrote about his math test was true,” I say defensively.
Well. Sort of. Last year before his math final, Cooper got a bunch of study questions from his friend Tyler, and when he showed up to take the test, it turned out they weren’t just study questions—it was the actual test. Cooper had already given the packet back to Tyler, and for some ridiculous reason, he didn’t want to get Tyler into trouble, so he didn’t tell anyone. So see? He did cheat, even though it was unintentional.
“It was totally true,” Marissa says, nodding up and down. “Which is why you shouldn’t feel bad about what you wrote.” She gives Clarice a pointed look.
“Totally,” Clarice says. “You shouldn’t feel bad about it.” She keeps nodding her head up and down, the way people do when they don’t really believe what they’re saying.
I close my eyes, lean back on my bed, and think about what I wrote about Cooper on Lanesboro Losers. I have pretty much every word memorized, since I spent a couple of hours obsessing over what I should write. (It couldn’t be too bitter, but it couldn’t look like I was trying not to be too bitter either. It was a very delicate balance that needed to be struck. Also, I couldn’t post the truth about what really happened between me and Cooper, since it was way too humiliating.) I finally settled on, “Cooper Marriatti is a total and complete jerk. He cheated on his final math test junior year just so he could pass, and he also might have herpes.” The herpes thing was of course made up, but I couldn’t help myself. (And, as you can see, despite my best efforts, I totally missed the balance.)
Anyway, the thing about Lanesboro Losers is that once you post something on there, they won’t take it down. It’s a fail-safe, just in case you end up posting something about a guy when he’s being a jerk to you and then try to log on and erase it when you guys are back together. Kate set it up so that it’s totally not allowed.
“Whatever,” I say, my heart beating fast. “I don’t feel bad.” I hope saying the words out loud will make them true. And for a second, it works. I mean, who cares about dumb Cooper and dumb Brown? It’s his own fault. If he hadn’t done something totally disgusting and despicable to me, if he hadn’t lied to me and been a complete and total jerk, I wouldn’t have written that, and he would be going to Brown. So it’s totally his own fault, and if he wants to blame anyone, he should blame himself, really, because it’s no concern to me if he wants to—
My cell phone starts ringing then, and I claw through the blankets on my bed, looking for it. Some books clatter onto the floor, and Clarice jumps back. She’s wearing open-toed silver sparkly shoes, and one of the books comes dangerously close to falling on her foot.
“Hello,” I say. The number on the caller ID is one I don’t recognize, so I try to sound super-professional and innocent, just in case it’s someone from the dean’s office.
There’s a commotion on the other end, something that sounds like voices and music, then the sound of something crinkling, and then finally, I hear a male voice say, “Eliza?”
“Yeah?” I say.
“Eliza, listen, I didn’t …” Whoever it is is keeping their voice really low and quiet, and I’m having a lot of trouble hearing what they’re saying.
“Hello!” I repeat.
“Who is it?” Marissa asks. “Is it Jeremiah?” Sometimes Jeremiah calls me looking for Marissa, if he thinks we might be together, or if he can’t get through to her for some reason. Clarice’s theory is that he does this so he can relay messages to me instructing Marissa to come over for a hookup, while not having to actually talk to her.
“Hello?” I say again into the phone. I put my finger in my other ear the way they do sometimes on TV, and it seems to help a little.
“Eliza, it’s me,” the voice says, and this time I hear it loud and clear. Cooper. “Eliza, you have to listen to me, the 318s and Tyler …” There’s a burst of static, and the rest of what he’s saying gets cut off.
“Cooper?” I ask, and my heart starts to beat a little faster.
Marissa and Clarice look at each other. Then in one fast springlike movement, they’re on the bed next to me, huddled around the phone.
“Yeah, it’s me,” he says. There’s another burst of commotion on the other end of the line.
“Eliza, listen to me …” he says. “You’re going to have to—” And then I hear him talking to someone else in the background.
“What do you want?” I ask, my stomach dropping into my shoes. “If this is about you not getting into Brown, then honestly, I don’t even care. It’s all your own fault that you didn’t get into Brown, and I don’t regret—”
“Eliza,” Cooper says. “Listen. To. Me. You have to meet me.” His voice is low now, serious and dark. “Right now. At Cure.”
Marissa and Clarice are falling all over themselves and me, trying to get at the phone, and Clarice’s earring gets caught on my sweater. “OW, OW, MY EAR!” she screams, then reaches down and sets it free. I pull the phone away from my ear and put it on speaker in an effort to get them to calm down.
“Cure?” I repeat to Cooper incredulously. Cure is a nightclub in Boston, and they’re notorious for not IDing. I’ve never been there. But Kate used to go all the time, and most of the kids at my school have gone at least once or twice.
“Yeah,” he says. “Eliza …” I hear someone say something to him in the background, and then suddenly his tone changes. “Meet me there. At Cure. In an hour.”
“Tell him no,” Marissa whispers, her brown eyes flashing. “Tell him that you never want to see him again!”
“Ask him if he really turned you in to the dean’s office!” Clarice says. She picks up the letter from the dean’s office and waves it in the air in front of me.
“Are you there?” Cooper asks, all snottylike.
“Yes, I’m here,” I say. “Look, why do you want to meet me at Cure?”
“Don’t ask questions,” he says. “You’ll find out when you get there. And make sure you wear something sexy.”
I pull the phone away from my ear and look at it for a second, sure I’ve misheard him. “‘Wear something sexy’? Are you crazy?” I ask. “I’m not going.” This doesn’t sound like a “Come to Cure so I can apologize to you and make sure you forgive me for the horrible things I’ve done” kind of request. It sounds like a “Come to Cure so that something horrible can happen that may involve humiliating you further.”
Marissa nods her head and gives me a “You go, girl” look.
“Yes, you are,” Cooper says.
“No, I’m not,” I say.
“Yes, you are,” Cooper says. And then he says something horrible. Something I wouldn’t ever even imagine he would say in a million years. Something that is maybe quite possibly the worst thing he could ever say ever, ever, ever. “Because I have your purple notebook.” And then he hangs up.
© 2010 LAUREN BARNHOLDT