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one On a bright, warm Sunday morning, the parking lot at Sunshine Square was getting crowded. Not with cars, though. Most of the mall's stores didn't open until later in the afternoon, so the shoppers hadn't arrived yet. The occupants of the parking lot were mostly seventh, eighth, and ninth graders from Parkside Middle School, and they didn't have cars. Their preferred modes of transportation were in-line skates and skateboards.
The only open stores were a bakery, a pharmacy, and a shop that rented out in-line skates along with helmets, kneepads, and other accessories. Amy Candler and Eric Morgan were in that shop, picking up their rental skates for the morning.
The owner handed Amy a pair in her size, and she eyed them with dismay. "These brake pads look worn down," she complained. "I think they need to be changed."
The man pretended not to hear her. "You want kneepads?"
"Yeah," Eric said.
"Me too," Amy chimed in, although she doubted she would need them. It wasn't likely that she would fall, and even if she did scrape her knees, they would heal quickly. Which was precisely why she always wore kneepads. She didn't want anyone to see exactly how fast her cuts and bruises disappeared. It would be a clear indication that she was not your average twelve-year-old, seventh-grade, female human being.
She knew the man wouldn't even consider fixing the brake pads or exchanging her skates, so she accepted them as they were. Eric wasn't too thrilled with his pair either.
"These shoelaces are like threads," he grumbled as he sat on the store bench to put them on.
"I've got shoelaces in my backpack," Amy offered. She reached inside and took them out. The laces were hot pink, and Eric made a face.
"No thanks," he said. "I guess these will hold up for a couple of hours. Why are you carrying around pink shoelaces?"
"For trading, of course," Amy replied. "I've already got two pairs of pink ones, and I need light blue to go with my new T-shirt."
Eric had heard this kind of explanation before, but he still looked incredulous. "That is so lame, Amy. Why don't you just go out and buy a pair of blue shoelaces? They can't be all that expensive."
"Blue shoelaces are not easy to find," Amy told him. "Besides, buying them wouldn't be any fun."
Finding, collecting, and wearing shoelaces to match your clothes was one of the latest trends at Parkside. At that moment, light blue was among the most wanted colors, with kelly green a close second.
Eric wasn't into the shoelace fad. "It's so dumb," he asserted. "Shoelaces should be white, brown, or black."
"Says who?" Amy challenged. "And what's the difference between collecting shoelaces and collecting baseball caps? Remember that?"
Baseball caps had been huge back in the fall, and Eric had collected almost fifty. Now, months later, they were stuffed in a box in the back of a closet, since the cap fad was history. Amy figured that was the whole point of fads--they didn't last forever. There were clothing fads, like caps and shoelaces, and word fads, like when everyone said a good thing was "awesome." No one used that word anymore.
There were even food and drink fads. A few months ago, everyone had been chugging bottles of one particular iced tea flavor, orange-lime-kiwi. Now the traditional carbonated soft drinks were back in style. The latest edible fad was Cocodoodles, a chocolate ball coated with a lemon- or lime-flavored soft candy. You could suck on the sticky balls for ages till the candy part wore off, and then you chomped the chocolate. Your tongue would stay yellow or green for hours.
When she finished lacing her skates, Amy stood up and rolled out of the store onto the pavement. Eric was just behind her.
"These brake pads are definitely worn down," she declared. "I wish I had my own skates so I wouldn't have to rent any."
"Yeah, me too," Eric said. "I'm going to ask around, find out how much they cost." He took off, gliding across the parking lot toward a group of his ninth-grade basketball buddies. Amy skated around the rim of the lot and looked for some of her own seventh-grade friends.
She knew that her best friend, Tasha, Eric's sister, wouldn't be there. Tasha was never wild about sports fads. Amy herself loved the sensation you got from moving fast, and she hoped the in-line skating fad would go on for a long time. She liked it so much, she decided she just might go on skating after the fad had gone the way of baseball caps.
She had to swerve suddenly to avoid colliding with Alan Greenfield, a homeroom classmate who was fooling around on a skateboard, and she gave him a withering look. "Watch out, Alan," she yelled as she zoomed past him. Skateboards were so not cool anymore. Personally, she thought skateboarders should be banned from the lot so the inline skaters could rule.
But she couldn't complain about anything today. The sun was shining, and in just a few weeks school would let out for the summer. She didn't have any homework hanging over her head, she hadn't fought with her mother for at least a week, and she had a boyfriend to go skating with. Well, not exactly with--they would arrive and leave together, and that was about it. But that's the way boyfriends and girlfriends acted in middle school, and she wasn't about to try to change the rules. She popped a lemon Cocodoodle into her mouth and skated faster.
Actually, she wasn't that crazy about Cocodoodles. She thought they were too sweet, and they were so gummy they stuck to your teeth. But when it came to fads, she usually tried to go along with them. Not because she was a mindless follower--it was just that she didn't like to call attention to herself. She was already so different from everyone else, she didn't really need to isolate herself even more from her peers.
Like right that moment, when she was tempted to move really fast, to fly across the lot until she reached a vacant area and go into some rapid spins. That would feel great, so exhilarating, and everyone would be terribly impressed. But then they'd want to know how she could perform such extraordinary feats, and what was she going to tell them? The truth? That she was a genetically designed clone who had physical capabilities way beyond theirs?
"Amy!" a voice called out.
She identified the direction the voice was coming from and skidded to a stop in front of Simone Cusack and Linda Riviera. Both of them were in her math class at Parkside.
"Did you understand the homework assignment for tomorrow?" Simone asked in a plaintive voice.
Amy hedged. "I got some of it," she said. Just as she couldn't demonstrate her prodigious athletic skills, she tried not to show off how much more easily she could learn than most people.