*If you have shoulder-length or longer hair
**We get to keep the hair.
(Do-Goods, we’re looking at you—bald kids need your help!)
“Good morning, Ms. Cady!” we both scream as we pass the stone statue of our school’s founder sitting proudly atop a rearing horse that guards the bottom of the school driveway. Two first-years, one dangling precipitously from the horse’s towering left hoof, and the other sitting atop Ms. Cady’s shoulders, look up at us as we pass, their polishing cloths paused.
We’re a few minutes early, so we park and blast the heat.
I’m exhausted but antsy, shifting in my seat so I can see the parking lot entrance. “They should be here by now.”
Deanna yawns and stretches, taking the ice pack off her knee, poking her scar, and tossing the ice pack back in the glove compartment before leaning back and closing her eyes. “We could take naps until they get here.”
“I hope Aloha doesn’t show up,” I grumble. “Maybe that way Fiona would boot her out of the Hopefuls.”
“Be nice,” Deanna says, her eyes still closed. “You know Aloha is the best choice for our third. She’s been our friend forever.”
I try to bite my tongue, but words come out. “Not forever. You and I have been friends forever. Aloha’s a transfer student. There is no forever, past or future, in our friendship.”
“Gigi Lane.” Deanna opens one eye and glares at me. “You’re being a total butt-wipe.”
I pout. “So?”
“So, we’ve talked about this. Is Aloha your friend?” Deanna, both eyes open now, pokes me when I don’t answer. “Gigi!”
“Yes, she’s my friend.”
“Come on, Deanna.” I groan, now regretting the fact that I walked right into a Deanna “Dear Heart” Jones love lesson.
“Gigi, why is Aloha your friend?”
I rush my oft-recited answer out in a sigh: “Because she’s funny and smart and kind of pretty, and when we were ten, she helped us carry that dog that got hit by a car all the way to the animal hospital and then cried when it died.”
Deanna nods. “Very good. I bet your heart grew two sizes just by saying that.”
I snicker. “And because who else are we going to pick for our third? Daphne ‘Dog Face’ Hall?”
She tries not to, but Deanna giggles. “Or Heidi,” she says, breaking into a devilish smile.
“Ick. No.” I shudder. Heidi is in our year and is on the path to becoming Head Cheerleader, a position that any Swan with barely above-average looks and moderate intelligence would be thrilled with. But earlier this year, when Deanna, Aloha, and I were tapped as Hottie Hopefuls, and Heidi wasn’t, she threw a fit. Flying pom-poms; furious scissors kicks; obscene, nonsensical cheers through her tears. It was hilarious. It was all just further proof she wasn’t ready for the popularity pressure cooker that is the Hot Spot. “That would have been a total disaster,” I say, a little giddy at the thought.
“Total disaster. Ooh, there’s Aloha.” Deanna points out the window.
I look down the hill and see Aloha’s black Jeep screech into the parking lot. It roars up the hill and screeches again as she parks next to us, lurching to a stop, her hair flying in front of her face, her forehead almost hitting the steering wheel. Totally unfazed, she rolls down her window, and I roll down mine.
“Whaddup, tramps?” Aloha doesn’t look at us, but at her own reflection in the visor mirror as she pops open a tube of lip gloss and smooths it on. “Are we early or are they late?”
I grimace as I watch her pucker her lips and make a kissy face at her own reflection. “Aloha, where the hell have you been?”
Deanna pokes me and mouths the words, Remember the dead dog!
I sigh and start again. “You know Fiona wanted us all here on time.”
“Slept in,” Aloha purrs, flipping the visor back up. “What?” she says with a smirk. “Afraid Fiona will lay into you for not ‘controlling your fellow Hopefuls’?”
“Just get in the car,” I growl.
“Hi, Aloha!” Deanna calls. “Get in, I brought you a Pop-Tart!”
“You’re the tart, you tart!” Aloha calls back with a wink. She gets out of the Jeep and then makes a point of standing right by my window, smoothing down her hair and straightening her outfit.
Dear God, her outfit!
“Take it easy, Gigi,” Deanna murmurs, leaning over me to roll up my window. “Just don’t look at her.”
I nod. And keep nodding. I’m still nodding as I say through gritted teeth, “But, Deanna, she totally stole my style.”
“Dude,” she cautions, “we cannot keep having this discussion. You guys have a similar look. That’s all. Neither one of you is a style snatcher.”
I glance out the window to where Aloha is picking an invisible piece of lint off of her vintage 1970s high-waisted jeans. “Oh, come on!” I whisper-yell. “She knows I have that exact same pair of jeans! What if I had worn them today? What then?”
“Then you would have popped your trunk and grabbed the spare outfit you keep exactly for that kind of emergency.”
I shake my head. “But I shouldn’t have to!” I hiss, trying to keep my voice down. “She knows as well as you do that 1970s nondisco, nonpolyester, nonhippie, non-bell-bottom fashion is my thing! I was the first one to grow out and feather my hair, and I was the one that started wearing those high-waisted jeans she’s trying to cram her fat ass into, and I’ve been wearing dangly gold pendant necklaces for years. Plus, I have blond hair, which clearly works better for that sort of hairstyle. Her brown hair looks like feathered doggie doo-doo.”
“Are you done?” Deanna groans.
I shrug. “Maybe.”
“She’ll be sweating in jeans today,” Deanna finally offers. “It’s chilly now, but it’s going to be a high of sixty-two.”
I glance out at Aloha, who is retucking her chocolate brown silk shirt into her jeans, a snug argyle sweater-vest with a deep V-neck over it.
“I suppose my dress is more suitable to the weather.” I grin with a deep breath, smoothing down the fabric of my vintage micromini. “She’ll stink up that silk before lunch.”
“Exactly!” Deanna agrees.
“She’s going to smell like roadkill! Thanks, Deanna.” I pat her on her good knee. “I feel loads better.”
Aloha gets into the car, flipping her feathered hair as she does. “I cannot wait for this rushing bullshit to be over with.”
I whip around to glare at her. “If you hate it so much, you can drop out right now.”
Aloha shrugs and takes the Pop-Tart Deanna is holding out. “Nah. You’d miss me too much. Besides, if I dropped out, then I’d have to go be a Glossy or a Cheerleader, and there’s no way I’m going to demote myself.”
I can’t even look at her. “You shouldn’t be so flippant,” I snap. “You should show some appreciation.”
“For what? The honor of picking up Fiona’s dry cleaning?”
I’m Gigi Lane and Aloha wishes she were me. “Forget it. You just better hope they don’t find out how lacking you are in sisterhood. Ms. Cady would be—”
“Ms. Cady was a tramp.” Aloha laughs. “Why would I care what she thought of me?”
“She wasn’t a tramp!” I turn around again. “She had lovers! And she chose not to limit herself by getting married and giving up all her rights!”
“She was a spinster hag!” Aloha shouts gleefully, clearly loving the fact that I’m so riled up.
Deanna levels a glare at both of us and orders, “Be nice.”
Aloha pats her on the head. “Sorry, Dear Heart. Didn’t mean to sully your delicate sensibilities.”
“That’s okay.” Deanna shrugs. “You guys just drive me bonkers with your stupid faces.”
We’re all still laughing when I see a familiar sleek sedan pull into the driveway. “There they are.” I wipe my eyes and wonder how, once again, Deanna has made everything okay.
The Jaguar slows as it passes us, my stomach twitching at the tinted windows, knowing they are looking right at us. “Let’s go.”
We get out and follow along behind the car as it parks, like we’re Secret Service agents following the president’s car in a parade. We take our places—Deanna and I on the driver’s side, Aloha on the passenger, all of us standing three steps back, our hands clasped behind us. “Like butlers,” Aloha snorted the first time they made us do it, to which Fiona responded by making us address her only in pig latin for the rest of the month. When the engine shuts off, we glance at one another and then reach out at the same time and open the doors.
Fiona Shay sits in the driver’s seat. She is putting on lipstick. She doesn’t even look at me. “We’re not ready yet.” Next to her is her second in command, Poppy, and in the backseat sits Cassandra.
We close the car doors in unison and barely have time to step back into position before there are three quick knocks on the driver-side window from inside the car. We all reach out quickly and open the doors again. This time they get out.
Fiona steps so close to me I can smell her perfume, the brand of which I never find, no matter how many bottles I sniff at the mall. The scent is like a mix of gardenias and oligarchy.
“You’ll wash the car,” Fiona orders quietly, looking directly into my eyes. “And clean out the trunk. And when you’re done, you will wait outside the DOS for further instructions.”
Aloha pretends to stifle her groan when Fiona mentions the Den of Secrecy, and when Poppy, Cassandra, and Fiona all level their stares in her direction, Aloha just smirks at her shoes.
Fiona looks at me. “Control your Hopefuls, Lane.”
I nod, swallowing against the dryness in my throat. “Aloha,” I say, turning toward her. “School song. Five times.”
Fiona glares at me, raising her eyebrows.
“In Latin,” I add, “and backward.”
Fiona nods her approval and walks away, followed by Poppy and Cassandra. We stand watching them, their perfect hair, their perfect posture, cutting a perfect silhouette of popularity for us to step into next year.
© 2010 Adrienne Maria Vrettos