Tonight I've been thinking about the mosaic Hope gave me the night she U-hauled ass out of Pineville. I wasn't supposed to open it until my birthday, but I couldn't wait. I tore off the wrapping paper and finally had an explanation for the mysterious slivers of shredded magazine pages all over her carpet. For months, Hope had been tearing out pictures of school buses and pumpkins to capture the color of her curls. Hershey bars and beer bottles for my bob.
I hung it on the wall next to my bed. I've been staring at it, trying to figure out how she glued all those tiny pieces of paper so they would come together to re-create my favorite photo: Hope and me at four a.m.-wide awake and laughing, waiting to sneak out to watch the sunrise.
I remember that summer sleepover at Hope's house two and a half years ago more vividly than anything I did today.
We watched the video of her Little Miss Superstar dance recital. She was the most coordinated of the dozen or so yellowbikini-clad four-year-olds shuffle-ball-changing to a Beach Boys medley. (Hope's review: Hello, JonBenèt Ramsey!)
We tried to outdo each other in round after round of "What Would You Do?" Eat nothing but fish sticks OR wear head-to-toe *NSYNC paraphernalia for the rest of your life? French kiss your dog, Dali?, OR have sex with the Chaka, the Special Ed. King? Be zit free forever OR fill a D-cup bra?
We flipped through our eighth-grade yearbook and decided that being voted Class Brainiac (me) and Class Artist (her) just about guaranteed geekdom in high school. We thought that Brainiac Who Will Actually Make Something of Her Life and Not End Up Managing a 7-Eleven and Artist Who Will Contribute More to This World Than Misspelled Graffiti sounded so much better. Then we literally rolled on the rug laughing as we stripped other Class Characters of their titles and gave them what they really deserved . . .
Scotty Glazer: from Most Athletic to Most Middle-Aged Yet Totally Immature
Bridget Milhokovich: from Best Looking to Best Bet She'll Peak Too Soon
Manda Powers: from Biggest Flirt to Most Likely to End Up on Jerry Springer
Sara D'Abruzzi: from Class Motormouth to Future Double Agent Who Would Betray Her Country for Liposuction.
Mrs. Weaver made German pancakes with lemon juice and confectioners' sugar for breakfast. Hope's then-sixteen-year-old brother, Heath, snorted the powdery sugar up his nose and imitated some crazy seventies comedian all hopped up on coke. This made me laugh so hard I thought my stomach was going to come out my ears. I felt bad when Hope later explained to me why she and her mom weren't so amused by his antics. And when Heath died of a heroin overdose six months ago, I felt even worse.
My brother would've been in the same grade as Heath. Hope and I always thought that was a really freaky coincidence. I never knew him, though. Matthew Michael Darling died when he was only two weeks old. Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. No one in my family talks about him. Ever.
Mr. and Mrs. Weaver made countless excuses for the sudden move back to their tiny hometown (Wellgoode, Tennessee: Population 6,345, uh, make that 6,348). They had to get Hope down there in time to start the third marking period. They had to move in with Hope's grandmother so they could afford to pay for college. But Hope and I saw through the lies. We knew the truth-even if we never said it out loud. The Weavers wanted to get Hope out of Pineville, New Jersey (pop. 32,000, give or take three people), so she wouldn't end up like her brother. Dead at eighteen.
Now I-I mean, we, Hope and me-have to pay for his mistakes. It's not fair. I know this may sound a little selfish, but couldn't they have waited another seventeen days? Couldn't they have waited until after my birthday?
I told my parents not to even dare throwing me a Sweet Sixteen party. The very thought of ice-cream cake and pink crepe paper makes me want to hurl. Not to mention the fact that I can't even imagine who would be on the guest list since I hate all my other friends. I know my parents think I'm being ridiculous. But if the one person I want to be there can't be there, I'd rather just stay home. And mope. Or sleep.
Besides, I have never been sweet. Maybe not never, but definitely not after the age of three. That's when my baby blond hair suddenly darkened-and my attitude went with it. (Which is why my dad's nickname for me is "Notso" as in, Jessica Not-So-Darling.) Whenever anyone tried to talk to me I'd yell BOR-ING and run away. I probably picked it up from my sister, Bethany, who was fourteen at the time and spent hours in front of the mirror rolling her eyes and practicing pissy looks to advertise her so-called angst. Of course, the difference between Bethany and me is that I've never had to practice.