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“Her low self-esteem is my good fortune.”
The people who say Portland is a place
where hipster thirtysomethings go to retire
clearly have never been to Lake Oswego,
my new hometown,
the burb of all burbs,
a suburban utopia of Audi-driving type As,
a place so white they call it “Lake No Negro,”
a place where dads go
when they don’t care that their kid
was happier living in Idaho;
a place for dads to go when
they’re hoping a constant downpour of rain
will wash away the past like it wasn’t even there
and all they can see is a new job
and a pretty new wife
and a place
to send your daughter to be educated properly
and ignored resoundingly.
Of the six months I’ve been here,
the first two were friendless
until I met Rachelle.
She needed a bestie and I needed somebody.
I met her by joining Yearbook,
which is a shortcut to friendship
if you’re one of the new people.
I’m new enough so no one knows my name,
but I’m old enough to realize who everyone is.
I’m new enough not to understand
why they call Ken Headley “SpoogeBob,”
but I’m old enough to have heard that
Mr. Hart had to leave school
because he made a pass at Martin Pierce
in the bio lab.
I’m new enough to be clueless about
what the Interplanetary Analysis Club actually does,
but old enough to realize
if there’s any guy
would kill to be with,
it’s Brady Finch.
Brady is by his locker
and as he’s reaching up to get something,
the word sinew comes to mind—
probably because we just learned it
in our human anatomy discussion in Biology.
I’m going to tell Mr. Lopez
that if he wants people
to really appreciate human anatomy,
he should show a slide of Brady Finch’s forearm
while saying the word sinew
and I bet every girl’s C-minus would
suddenly sprout into a B-plus.
Brady zips up his backpack
and slams his locker shut
and his sinew comes down
and curls around its rightful place in the world:
the shoulder of Tabitha Foster.
I wonder what the point of being quote-unquote popular is, since sometimes it’s a highly annoying thing to be. For instance, idiots and plebeians constantly come up to you and invade your space with inane greetings, bids for attention, and pleas for friendship.
“Hey, Tabitha…. How’s it going?… Whassup?… Love your earrings….” Etc. Etc. Barf. Space invasions are draining.
Don’t get me wrong. Of course I like it that people know me and I have the perks of getting away with whatever I want, but most of the time I would appreciate an iota of privacy.
Right now is one of the few times I actually receive said iota—hanging out in the bathroom with Kayla and Taryn. Sure, they talk about ridiculous things, but at least when they’re looking in the mirror, they’re not paying attention to me.
“I did an hour and a half of cardio last night,” Kayla offers, pushing her long black hair out of her eyes. Asian girls are the luckiest when it comes to their hair. They barely have any on their bodies, and then they have these supershiny, hassle-free manes.
“I’m pretty sure Coke Zero makes you constipated,” Taryn says, clutching her stomach.
A minute later Kayla squints at a bubbly blonde exiting the bathroom. “Serena Bell’s on the Pill,” she prattles. “That’s why her boobs are so humongo.”
“Mine are just a God-given gift,” Taryn says, fluffing her cleavage out of her low-cut Juicy Couture top. It’s true; her C-cups are an asset, and she sure as shit uses them as one.
For once Kayla and Taryn aren’t barraging me with questions like “How’s Brady?” and “What are we doing tonight?” because they’re busy reapplying their makeup and primping and making faces at themselves in the mirror.
I’m a secret connoisseur of Mirror Faces. Every girl’s is different. My mom’s is a smoky glance, eyes half shut, all sexy and mysterious. Kayla puckers her lips like she’s making a kiss, sucking in her cheeks. Taryn tilts her chin down, with a saucy little half smile, angled in a way so she looks ten pounds lighter. Too bad none of them can pull it off in real life. That’s what sucks about a Mirror Face; you make it because it’s how you want other people to see you, but you’re the only person who actually gets to.
This is possibly a topic worthy of the LOHS blog, but who has time. Just because Ms. Hoberman gave me an A in Creative Writing last semester, it doesn’t mean I should be wasting my time blogging. Blogging is for people who don’t have social lives. Besides, Ms. Hoberman gives everybody an A. Hence, my signing up for her Shakespeare class this semester. The best thing is the field trips, where you get to hang out with your friends under the guise of extra credit. This year we only get a nighttime trip to Northwest Classical Theatre to see a play, but next year, when we’re seniors, we go to Ashland for the weekend for the Shakespeare Festival. As in, an entire weekend where you get to hook up with your boyfriend and get drunk, and your parents foot the bill for the whole thing because they think you’re “learning.”
As for Brady, I’ve never seen his Mirror Face. His Everyday Face is pretty gorgeous, though. He has dimples and thick blond hair that he wears a little shaggy in the most adorable way, and he has moments of being truly charming. He’s not a big believer in deep conversations, but what guy is? And really, what’s the point? It’s easier not to have deep conversations. You end up talking endlessly about your feelings, not his, and then exposing yourself too much until you finally arrive at a place of inevitable heartbreak and disappointment.
Kayla finishes putting on her opalescent pink Dior lip gloss complete with plumper. Her lips look blindingly sticky.
“Can we go?” I ask. Marcia Abrahams keeps looking over at me, and I have a hunch she’s gathering the courage to come over and ask me what I’m wearing to Spring Fling. She always asks me what I’m wearing, like clockwork, eleven weeks before a dance, and then somehow ends up wearing something almost identical. Imitation is supposed to be a compliment, but copycats are annoying and should be ignored whenever you see them plotting their space invasion.
That said, one advantage of being on a high rung of the Lakers social ladder is that you and your like-minded peers get to have your lockers right next to one another. I don’t know how it happens that way, but it seems like the primo real estate always belongs to A-listers.
Kayla and Taryn and I saunter up to our bank of lockers to find Brady and his boys already there. Brady is getting a vitamin supplement out of his locker. He’s very into “peak performance.”
Jason Baines asks him, “Where were you last night?”
“Yeah,” Noah Simos adds. “You never showed up at Ferber’s.”
“Didn’t your mom tell you?” Brady says. “She had me come over to your house so she could suck my dick.”
Have you ever noticed how boys love making jokes about sleeping with each other’s mothers? Either that or discussing how gay the other person is. If you have a penis, you apparently possess an endless supply of this type of unfunny comedy.
Noah punches him, and Brady laughs, slinging his arm around me. I smell his D&G cologne. It isn’t entirely unpleasant. I look up at him like, You are the most charming person I know, and your arm around my shoulder makes me happier than anything in the entire world.
“What time should I pick you up tonight?” he asks, kissing me.
“Like, nine?” I say. He may be kind of a D-bag, but he does have nice lips. And he’s six two, which is good, since I’m an inch or so taller than most of the girls in my grade. Sometimes people ask if I’ve ever modeled. My mom took me to get professionally photographed once, but I hated it. It was all hot lights and faking it, and it got boring fast. Although, in a weird way, I guess you could say that’s what I’m doing now, looking up at Brady and playing the part of Perfect Girlfriend. Either that or I’m giving him my very own Mirror Face.
I know I wasn’t directly responsible for Lindsay Manatore having to run track with one half sweatpants, one half short shorts, but I probably should have stopped Alex from cutting the leg off them with Janet’s pocketknife. But in a way I’m glad I didn’t, because it was funny. Anytime we crossed Lindsay’s path on the track, I would start to sing, “Who wears short shorts?”
Alex befriended me in the first place because she thinks I’m funny. That, and she assumed because I dress the way I do, I belonged in their social circle. I told her, “Oh no, I just have a terrible fashion sense.” Next thing I know, I was being introduced by Alex to her friends as her hilarious, sarcastic new friend Moe. That was at the beginning of freshman year, and that’s the person I’ve stayed ever since. Before that, I was friends with losers, but I’ve got to say being with the tough kids or the “burnouts” or whatever you’d call them has its perks because no one effs with you. The problem is people mostly avoid you because they assume you’re dangerous or you’ll beat the crap out of them, so you don’t really have a chance to mingle a whole lot.
The only person who sees something close to the real me is Noah. He probably would not admit that in HIS journal. But he’s a popular kid, and those kids don’t even keep journals. Their lives revolve around status updates, and by status I mean STATUS. He hangs out with people like Tabitha Foster and Brady Finch and Jason Baines. Noah only talks to me after school when we’re alone, then he leaves before my aunt gets back from work. Or I leave before his mom gets home.
Yesterday I waved at him when I saw him walking into his house with his parents. He didn’t wave back. I heard his mom say, “Who’s that?” His response: “I don’t know.” Hey, asshole, if you’re going to pretend not to know me, that’s fine, but I live next door to you. Couldn’t you just say, “I think she lives next door to us”? I don’t need him to proclaim undying love for me or tell the whole world that we make out and sometimes do even more than that, but at least admit I’m a person you’re familiar with. Douche.
“Please tell me it’s not gonna rain later.” Kayla points, looking at the gray sky as we walk up the perfectly manicured walkway to Taryn’s front door.
“Sorry. It’s gonna rain later,” I say. It’s Portland. It rains 155 days a year.
Kayla rings the bell, which echoes out some cathedral-on-crack-style chimes. The house is a gaudy white McMansion perched right on the water in Lake Oswego. Not my taste, but in our neighborhood new money reigns supreme, and this is the perfect example of what it buys you. Taryn’s parents have oodles of fresh cash, courtesy of her dad’s sweet upper-management job at Nike and her mom’s at Wieden+Kennedy.
“I’ll drive,” Taryn offers, tossing her curly blond hair as she swings open the front door.
“I want to find something hot,” Kayla says, fingering her belly-button ring, which is proudly on display thanks to a strategically rolled-up sweatshirt, designed to show off her lean, flat stomach.
Kayla has a gym in her house, and she wears a red rubber “core bracelet” on her wrist to remind her to suck in her stomach. Her personal hero is Tracy Anderson, Gwyneth Paltrow’s trainer. I’m pretty sure she owns Tracy’s entire workout wardrobe, down to the shoes. If her mom would let her, she’d probably dye her hair blond to match Tracy’s, but fortunately she realized that “blond Asian” is not the greatest look. Thanks, Bai Ling.
We reach Taryn’s red Mini, a present from her parents for the incredible accomplishment of turning sixteen. Kayla crawls into the backseat.
“Don’t you already have a closet full of hot?” I nudge her.
“Too much is never enough,” she singsongs.
Our Friday afternoon shopping excursions are a ritual. I used to love them, but then about a year ago, I started wondering if spending my dad’s cash was just another form of taking his hush money; if he didn’t have so much of it, my mom probably would have divorced him a long time ago. Every time I buy something with a fifty-dollar bill he’s given me, I’m going into greater debt with the enemy. But if it weren’t for the enemy, I guess I wouldn’t have gotten Tiffany diamond-stud earrings for Christmas last year.
We peel into the Washington Square parking lot, and Taryn does one of her typical “I need two spaces instead of one” parking jobs, nearly plowing into a guy in a wheelchair.
“Jesus!” I yell.
“Just because he’s handicapped doesn’t mean you need to put him out of his misery,” Kayla adds.
“Whatever. He’d thank me for it if he knew Macy’s doesn’t carry Miu Miu,” Taryn sniffs. She is one of those girls who live for any razzle-dazzle chance at fashionistadom and the possibility of possessing couture. Not that the Washington Square Mall is crawling with couture, but you’d be surprised at how many kids in our grade have dads with Learjets and moms who still trot out furs for parent-teacher meetings. If anyone can sniff out a thousand-dollar dress in a mall, Taryn can. She once used the bio lab tables as an impromptu fashion runway when Mr. Lopez left the room for one of his infamous fifteen-minute bathroom breaks.
Kayla starts gravitationally beelining toward Forever 21, the home of all her slut-wear. “Let’s go to Forever Twenty-One,” she says.
“We’re going to Bebe,” Taryn says firmly. Spring Fling is almost three months away, but she’s hell-bent on nabbing the perfect dress early.
“Why do you want to go to Forever Twenty-One? They print Bible verses on the bottoms of their shopping bags.” I roll my eyes.
“They do not!” Kayla gasps.
“See for yourself,” I say with a shrug.
“I’m going to Nordie’s.” I suggest it because I know neither of them will want to go there. It’s “too nineties.”
“Meet back at Yopop for fro-yo afterward?” Taryn says, and I nod.
Kayla points at the Forever 21 window. “Ooh—glitter tube top!”
“Watch out,” I say. “Total sinner wear. You might need some redemption.”
Kayla sticks out her tongue, and I can’t help but laugh. She may be a bit of a ludicrous idiot, but she’s at least somewhat trustworthy. When I drunkenly told her about my dad having an affair last year, she never mentioned it again. And in exchange, I never talk about all the slutty things she’s done with half the guys she’s done them with. Last year in Family and Consumer Science (formerly known as Home Ec), Mrs. Sykes talked about a study where girls who had good body image were more likely to abstain from sex, and girls with bad body image were more likely to be promiscuous. How weird is it that if you like your body, you don’t let anyone see it, and if you don’t like your body, you want to show it to everyone? And why wouldn’t Kayla love her body, since there isn’t an ounce of fat on it?
“See you in forty-five minutes,” Tayrn says. As they head off, I breathe a sigh of relief. I can finally do what I came here to do.
Marc and I played Rage after school. Beached Whales were exploding left and right when he started giving me shit because I hang out with dirtbags and a guy who doesn’t even acknowledge me in public. I told him I don’t need his overprotective brother speech. It’s not like his friends are a ton better, since all they do is blaze up and ride bikes. He argued with me for a while and said that’s different from actually doing bad things like tagging buildings or being mean to people or constantly partying and whatever else we do. I said it’s none of his business what we do, and besides, who else am I supposed to hang out with? So he let it drop and said he’s just looking out for me, and then he killed a shit ton of Gingers and Fattys. I was pissed until I realized that’s just what brothers do. They try to protect you from the bad guys, even in a video game.
Even if you have enough money to do what you want, it’s still fun trying to get something for free. Especially something from the Nordie’s jewelry case.
“Can I see that one?” I ask, pointing to a Maya Brenner bracelet with chunky gold chains and a little coin with small stones of turquoise and coral. The other day I saw Alexa Chung wearing it on a blog.
The despondent saleslady unlocks the case. She looks like all the gloomy weather has soaked straight through to her soul. Either that or she’s been sprayed with a little too much Eau de Homeless on her walk to work. That could bum out anybody.
“Oh, and the earrings,” I say once she plunks the charm bracelet on the velvet pad on the counter. She turns to get them.
“No, not those.” I point. “The pearl ones. And that silver bracelet with the big chain links? And can I see the gold hoops? Thanks so much.” As the saleswoman sets out one thing after another, I smile sweetly. “Do you mind getting out that pendant necklace too? Sorry.”
“Which one?” She’s starting to get confused.
“It’s so hard to make up my mind here,” I say, holding up the gold hoops. “By the way, I love your blouse. It looks amazing on you.”
“It does?” She looks down at her navy-blue sheath as if seeing herself for the first time. I feel a little guilty for preying on her insecurities, but I guess on the plus side she looks happier now than she did five minutes ago.
“Jean, there’s someone on line three for you—Eric?” a woman from the Clinique counter calls over.
From the look on Jean’s face, it’s obvious Eric has been dodging her for weeks. His favorite activities are probably Nintendo, drinking Coors, and not returning the calls of women he’s had sex with. Jean is obviously one of them. Seeing her happy face, I remember feeling that excited when Brady used to call me. Now I just feel stuck in a loop of bad chitchat and sloppy make-out sessions. Sometimes, yes, we do the actual deed, but we’re usually drunk, so I don’t even know if it qualifies. It’s basically a formula of grabs, gropes, and insertions, all leading to an inevitably brief conclusion. I wouldn’t rank it as one of my all-time favorite activities. This trip to the mall would score way higher.
“I’m with a customer. Tell him I’ll call him back,” Jean says, casting a disappointed eye my way.
“No, it’s cool.” I give her a knowing smile. “Go ahead. I’m fine.”
“I’ll be right back.” Jean nods appreciatively and goes to take the call. Jackpot.
“Hey, stranger!” Jean blurts into the phone. After a second she says, “Yeah, I love Ruth’s Chris!…” Then her shoulders slump. “I think I still have it. It was only a fifty-dollar gift certificate, though, so I’m not sure how big a dinner it will get us….”
He wants her to take him out to dinner with her gift certificate? Jesus. Jean needs to hang up on this guy and delete his number. But whatever—her low self-esteem is my good fortune. When she hangs up, I give her a little wave and say, “Thanks! I’ll come back later!” and stroll off. Leaving everything behind but the Maya Brenner bracelet.
Walking your trinket out of the store is the worst and best part. You’re about to become either a brilliant con artist or another juvenile-delinquency statistic.
I force myself to slow down and supposedly admire a pink sundress, but underneath the sleeve of my sweater, I’m covertly ripping off the price tag and tiny bar-code sensor from the bracelet, which is fastened on my wrist. I drop the tag and sensor on the floor and walk on through Sporting Goods.
Ninety seconds later, I’m at the street exit. I take a deep breath and make the final plunge through the electronic gates by the front doors—which, 87 percent of the time, are for show, but still they’re the final, exhilaratingly scary hurdle—and I push open the door. The winter air hits me like a slap of freedom.
I quicken my pace as I start toward the parking lot. I figure I’ll make a hard right in thirty feet, walk around the building, and reenter the mall near Yopop. I pull out my phone to text Kayla my ETA, and move faster and faster, freer and freer. I pick up speed and round the corner of the building, and that’s when I walk right smack into a security guard.
Blood bolts to the surface of my skin so hard it feels like my face is being pricked by a hundred little pins.
I have no freaking clue what to do, so I cover. Badly. “Oops. Sorry. I’m such a spaz—”
He smiles a slow, casual smile. A tattoo of a bobcat or some kind of jungle lion peeks out from under his collar. I stare at it. Was he my age when he decided to permanently ink himself? Was it something he did with his friends? I wonder if he regrets it.
“I’ll need you to come with me,” he says.
He chuckles a little bit. “I think you know.”
“I do?” I ask. There is literally no oxygen going in or out of my body.
“Girls who steal three-hundred-dollar bracelets aren’t as dumb as they look.”
“I didn’t steal anything.” I try to make my Mirror Face, my model face, my “you are the most charming person I know, and your arm around my shoulder makes me happier than anything in the entire world” face, but he doesn’t buy it.
“I need you to come back inside and show me what’s on your wrist.”
I have no choice. So I say, “Oh, shit! Is this what you’re talking about?” I hold out my wrist. “I totally forgot I tried it on! I’m an idiot.”
He smiles at me. Just beneath his smile, I can see the tattooed point of the bobcat’s claw, poised above his jugular.
“You may have ‘forgotten’ ”—he stresses the word, obviously not believing me—“but you still left the store without paying for it, which means you broke the law.”
When we head back inside, I try to look like nothing’s wrong, but then I see Jean standing there by the big glass doors. She’s pointing me out to her coworker and wearing a smug smile on her face. Ten minutes ago, Jean was the loser and I was the winner. Now it’s a completely different story.
“Eric is just using you for a free steak,” I snipe to Jean as we pass. Her smug smile disappears. The guard holds out his arm for me to take, and it’s almost the way a gentleman leads a lady onto the dance floor—or a bobcat drags its prey into the forest after the chase is over.
“This is what happens to princesses in real life.”
Okay, question of the day: What’s the big deal about Spring Fling? People blow hundreds of dollars on one night for a cheesy photo with a backdrop full of stars. I’ll admit the prospect of dancing to pop songs with Noah Simos isn’t the worst thing I can imagine, but it’s never actually going to happen, so there’s no use wasting time thinking about it.
Aunt B keeps telling me stories about her high school dances, which are fully boring. She keeps insisting that if I don’t go to Spring Fling I’ll regret it. She’s big on “living life to the fullest” and having “no regrets.” I always feel that’s what people who peaked in high school say. Not that it’s her fault—she didn’t plan on having to give up her life because my parents died in a random accident and she had to become guardian. Of course I have regrets, like not paying more attention to my folks when they were right in front of me, but I try not to spend too much time dwelling on it, because I was only seven when it happened. I have a few special memories I keep to myself and a few things I wish I’d done differently, like not whining about wanting a skateboard for my birthday. If I hadn’t, they probably would still be alive. But the more you think about stuff like that, the worse you feel, and the more you talk about special memories, the less special they become. Marc and I actually agree on this topic, and last year for Christmas, he gave Aunt B a T-shirt that says “No Regrets” as a kind of joke. She didn’t laugh. He said he regretted giving it to her, but she didn’t laugh at that either.
Excerpted from Trinkets by Kirsten Smith Copyright © 2013 by Kirsten Smith. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Posted April 9, 2013
This book is such a fun read and it’s quick too. It took me no time to finish it and when I did I felt a bit sad, but only because it was over! The main characters (Elodie, Tabitha, and Moe) are relatable to a certain extent in that just like these girls everybody wants to find real friends and true love. They aren’t that relatable in the sense that all three of them are shoplifters but that’s completely okay. It’s still extremely entertaining to follow each of them through life as they tackle with what it means to be a teenager in high school and how their pasts have shaped who they are in the present. The book itself is utterly hilarious. Every page had me crackin’ up and that was part of the reason I just couldn’t put it down. If you’re looking for a fun, quick, read full of humor with a splash of originality I’d definitely check Trinkets out. It won’t change your life or expand your mind but if you aren’t expecting the book to do any of those things you won’t be disappointed!
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Posted May 18, 2013
Posted April 7, 2013
Posted March 19, 2013
The book was an incredibly fun read, quirky and funny and snarky all at the same time. Although the characters weren't completely relatable at the beginning, we come to understand them and their actions as we continue reading and they become fully dimensional characters that feel real and have depth. I enjoyed the fast pace of the book, because goodness knows, some of the books in this genre are so incredibly slow. This book flies by, and I don't want to ruin it for anyone, but the ending is awesome! Overall, a strong recommend!
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