A black circle-in-a-circle-in-a-circle, a bull’s-eye, a target: I trimmed it from the symbol sheet, painted on glue, stuck it to the underside of the vestal’s upraised wrist, one of the few blank spaces left on her. Decoupage, a French word, or from French anyway: découper, to cut. My vestal was kind of plain, compared to other people’s, all bald and smooth and monochromatic, neat black symbols glued on white plastic skin. Hazel’s was just a head, a Styrofoam wig form mounted on a toy plastic police car. Mrs. Parais gave her a zero for materials, but extra credit for presentation and creativity.
"That’ll dump your final grade," Audrey said, satisfied. Audrey had done hers with ribbons and magazine cutouts, totally pretty and forgettable, like some mannequin in a mall.
Hazel looked at her, then at me, and shrugged. "I’m not worried."
I was running late with my vestal. She was due on Thursday, our next-to-last full day in the next-to-last week in the year. After that was Convocation, and then we were done. It was June, the public school kids were already out for the summer, clumped up at Starbucks, laughing and shoving. The girls looked younger than we did, somehow, or freer. Like the girls in Hazel’s neighborhood, with their Jessicka jeans, tons of lipstick like kids playing dress-up. As if they were less—serious than we were. Less something.
The bell sounded for third period, but I didn’t leave. The room was quiet around me, the long clean worktables, papier-mâché vases and flowers, some lower-school project waiting to be picked up. A twist of paper stuck to my infinity bracelet, my hands smelled like glue. The symbol sheet had so many cutouts it was turning into lace. At the bottom was a row of little wheels, or flowers, captioned growth, rebirth, confusion, renewal. I cut out one, a seven-armed wheel, blunt black with an empty white center, and stuck it carefully over my vestal’s right eye.
Fourth period, I had already passed my swimming final, so I was free. The walkway to Peacock was empty at this time of day, you weren’t supposed to go back to your room during class hours. "Hazel? " I said. She was stretched out full-length, all five-eleven of her, hair pulled back, eyes closed. The sunlight shone through the green ash trees, a spangled kind of light, as if we were underwater. It was cozy there, the bricks held in the heat.
"Are you asleep? "
She half opened one eye. "What? "
"Are you—" Are you Bone, or Lady Vaughn? Are you my best friend? "Are you going to dinner with Edward, or what?"
She yawned, wide and pink, like a cat. "No. I don’t know. . . . I’m going to sleep. I was asleep," play-shoving my leg, closing her eyes again. The ash leaves flickered. Her head against my thigh was heavy and warm.
Excerpted from Headlong by Kathe Koja.
Copyright © 2008 by Kathe Koja
Published in 2008 by publisher Farrar, Straus and Giroux, LLC.
All rights reserved. This work is protected under copyright laws and reproduction is strictly prohibited. Permission to reproduce the material in any manner or medium must be secured from the Publisher.