The Girlsby Amy Goldman Koss, Cliff Nielsen
One Saturday morning a girl finds out that her group of friends, for reasons unknown, has decided to exclude her. As the short novel moves over the course of the weekend, five girls narrate in turns, each moving the story forward as well as providing sometimes unwitting commentary on her friends' versions of events. The story is the stuff of series paperbacks, but… See more details below
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One Saturday morning a girl finds out that her group of friends, for reasons unknown, has decided to exclude her. As the short novel moves over the course of the weekend, five girls narrate in turns, each moving the story forward as well as providing sometimes unwitting commentary on her friends' versions of events. The story is the stuff of series paperbacks, but Koss succeeds in taking it to its dramatic core without becoming generic.
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MAYAI hung up and tried Candace's number again, but her line was still busy. I'd have waited for her to hang up, but the longer it took me to find a friend and get ready, the less time we'd have for the rides. It was a long drive to Magic Mountain.
So I called Brianna, but her mom picked up and said Bree wasn't home. I knew Brianna hated it when her mom called her Bree, but I didn't say anything. "She's on her way to Darcy's," Mrs. Cohen said. "Aren't you going too, dear?"
"To Darcy's?" I asked.
Brianna's mom just said, "Oh," and hurried off the phone. A gray, wispy sort of feeling started forming in my gut, where my excitement had just been. I took the phone to my room, shut the door, and punched out Candace's number for the third time. She answered.
"Candace?" I said, feeling suddenly a little shy.
"It's Maya. I wondered if you'd like to go to Magic Mountain with me today." "Tooo-day?" Candace said. The wisp in my gut grew to a gray cloud. "No, Maya," she said. "I won't be Magic Mountaineering today." Then Candace made a choking laugh and blurted, "Gotta go!" and hung up-bam. That "bam" felt like a door slamming in my face.
I didn't dare call Darcy. I bet they were all going there-without me. Well, maybe Darcy forgot to invite me. No, someone would have said, "Aren't you coming to Darcy's?" The gray cloud slithered up my chest. Higher, to my throat, choking me.
But couldn't it be a coincidence that everyone was busy? Brianna's mom just thought I'd be going to Darcy's because we all hang around so much together, right? Wrong.
What had I done?
Had the girls been acting strange toward me? Did anyone act weird yesterday at school? I thought back. All I could remember was that Candace took one look at my new gray sweater with the loose lacy weave and said, "What corpse did you steal that from?"
I'd laughed. I'm not sensitive about stuff like clothes and Candace was right, it did look cobwebby! I knew that from then on I'd always see my new sweater as a shroud on a mummy. Candace had that effect on me. When I'd been so thrilled bringing a persimmon from my own tree to school, Candace had shuddered, saying the inside was the texture of snot. "Sweet red snot," she'd said. Instantly, that was exactly what it felt and tasted like. I'd gagged and spit it out.
I glanced at the mirror and caught myself chewing on my nails. None of the other girls bit their nails. Candace and Darcy collected nail polishes. Between them, they had every color under the sun.
How long had they been planning to leave me out of whatever it was they were doing today? The grayness curled around my head, squeezing.
Had anything happened in the lunchroom Friday? We'd all sat together as usual at our table by the window, and I couldn't remember anything odd. Unless it was when I'd said we should start a baby-sitters club, like in the books. I'd thought it was a good idea and I knew we could make a ton of money in the neighborhood, but Candace and Darcy had stared at me as if I'd grown fangs. Then they looked at each other and burst out laughing.
I'd said, "What's so funny?" but they were laughing too hard to answer me. I'd looked at Renee. She shrugged. "What's so funny?" I asked again, but that made Candace and Darcy laugh even harder. Brianna smiled along with them. Then the bell rang.DARCYYOU'D NEVER KNOW IT if you saw her now, but years ago, my aunt was a model. After she quit, she gave all her old wigs to me and my sister, Keloryn. My mom suggested I bring out the wigs for my party, but I thought that was a lame idea. My mom is NOT an expert on parties. In fact, the only two parties my parents ever threw were their wedding, which was small and held in a judge's chambers, and a tea when my mom graduated from law school before I was born.
But it turned out my mom was right-my friends loved the wigs! Everyone was clowning around and having a blast. It looked like my party was a hit and I almost relaxed-but not quite. Every now and then I'd glance at the clock and my throat would close. We had so many hours left until tomorrow. What if Candace and everyone got bored? It would be my fault. My party means my fault.
Candace looked fabulous in every single wig. She was so gorgeous, and funny too. She could do impressions of people that were absolutely astounding. Her imitation of Maya was a scream!
Renee put on one wig and then just sat there in a trance. I didn't worry about it, though, because Renee gets quiet that way. Brianna says it's because of her parents' separation, but I think Renee has always been kind of moody. When everyone but Renee got bored with the wigs, we put on our suits and went for a swim. I don't know what Renee did. Maybe just sat up in my room wearing that witchy black wig and daydreaming. After a while she came outside and curled up in a deck chair.
Brianna floated around on the blue raft, knocking against the side of the pool and bouncing off to float in another direction, like a leaf.
I looked around at my friends and felt lucky.
Sometimes, I secretly used our first initials to make up names for our group. It was lame, I know, but I liked to do it. Until yesterday, we'd had M for Maya, and my favorite names for us were Really Dumb But Cute Monsters, and My Big Dorky Rubber Chicken. Now it was time to drop the M, so I had to think of ones with just D for me, C for Candace, B for Brianna, and R for Renee. Dark Clouds Bring Rain?
Candace is a great swimmer and her dives are perfect, even when they're silly ones. She could probably be in the Olympics if she wanted to. She announced, "The Dive of the Shy," and timidly minced to the edge of the board, head down, shoulders hunched, then stepped meekly into the pool without making a splash. Next she did The Dive of the Oasis, crawling to the edge of the diving board gasping, "Water! Water!" and tumbling in. She hauled herself out, sleek as a seal, and wrung the water out of her long black hair, saying, "Any requests?"
"The Ballet Dive," Renee said, at the same time as I said, "The Bird Dive."
Candace bowed, saying, "Presenting the Ballet Bird." She flapped her arms and did a perfect pirouette off the board. I wanted to scream out to the whole world, "Eat your heart out, everyone! I'm her best friend! Me!" CANDACEDARCY'S WHOLE HOUSE was tasteless, but the tackiest room of all was the den. And the tackiest thing about the den was the huge, showy fireplace. It just screamed "Look how rich we are!" But with the lights out, all I could see was the fire itself. It felt hot on my face. It made my heart race just making small talk while two feet in front of us, flames reduced thick, hard logs to nothing but smoke and ash. I don't get why people think it's relaxing to watch fires. If they'd look closer and pay attention, they'd see that there is nothing leisurely about fire. It's frantic. The flames are starving! I almost said something about it to the girls lying around me, but what would be the point? They were jabbering away about teachers. They wouldn't get it at all. Now I looked at the baby fire in Darcy's fireplace, but I wasn't fooled. It was pretending to be tame and innocent, but I knew that given a chance, it could become a huge wildfire, raging higher than Darcy's house, devouring the whole neighborhood in an instant.
"The fire's so pretty," I heard Renee say. And Brianna sleepily agreed. I closed my eyes and dug deep into my sleeping bag.
Of course, if I'd said anything about the power or destructiveness of fire, the girls would all be quick to agree with me. They'd scurry to tell horrid fire stories, trying to outdo one another. They'd interrupt one another, falling over themselves to show how well they understood me-trying to prove that they felt just as I did. But left to their own meager imaginations, they all thought fire was pretty.
I pretended to sleep.
copyright © 2000 by Amy Koss; published by Dial Books for Young Readers, a division of Penguin Putnam Books for Young Readers. All rights reserved.
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