Ever feel like someone's watching you? Me, too. But lately it's been happening in my room. When I'm alone.
A friend posted a video of me dancing online, and now I'm no longer Alicia Ruffino. I'm dancergirl. And suddenly it's like me against the worldeveryone's got opinions.
My admirers want more, the haters hate, my best friend Jacyeven he's acting weird. And some stalker isn't content to just watch anymore.
Ali. Dancergirl. Whatever you know me as, however you've seen me online, I've trained my whole life to be the best dancer I can be. But if someone watching has their way, I could lose way more than just my love of dancing. I could lose my life.
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|Age Range:||3 Months to 11 Years|
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"Question of the day," Jacy says. "What's the worst thing that could happen to you?"
Jeremy Carl Strode, aka Jacy, settles beside me on the worn marble stoop of the brick building we both call home. Jacy and his parents live on the fifth floor; Mom and I have the apartment above them.
"Alicia!" His bony elbow pokes me. Jacy's wearing the vintage AC/DC tee I gave him for his sixteenth birthday and a pair of ripped jeans. Knowing him, he's probably got on zero underwear because of the August heat wave.
"I heard you," I say. "Are you talking about school next year or, like, life?"
I fan my orange tank top over my stomach. "Is this for the Gazette?"
Just before classes ended in June, Jacy was named features editor at WiHi, our neighborhood public school officially known as Washington Irving High. He's in line for editorin-chief when we're seniors if he can keep his father, "Mr. Go to MIT and Be An Engineer," out of his mop of curly hair.
"Let me think," I say.
"That'll take a while."
"Not everyone aces Calc in tenth, genius-man."
Jacy ducks his head in embarrassment and checks his cell. "Better get going if you want to show up to work on time."
In June, I'd scored a job at Moving Arts, the studio where I study dance. The sweetest part is that I can take as many classes as I want for free.
Halfway down the steps, Jacy trips and slides the rest of the way on his butt. My laugh cuts through the muggy air.
"Glad I amuse you," he mutters.
"All the time."
I give him a hand up and we head north past midsize apartment buildings, neat brownstones and the ethnic restaurants that, according to my mother, give the Heights its charm. Air-conditioned cars glide down the street, although the sidewalk is empty. The smell of garbage baking in metal cans is enough to cause the fainthearted to, well, faint.
"Got it!" I pull a rubber band from my messenger bag and twist my long, wavy hair into a ponytail. "Worst thingit's the spring concert and the auditorium is sold-out. There's a scout from Merce Cunningham's company. I'm doing, like, fifteen pas de bourree" I demonstrate the step-side, cross-back, step-side move "and then I trip. Not just a stumble but a humongous slip. The next thing you know, I'm sprawled facedown across the stage. God, how humiliating is that?"
The audience laughs. Samantha Warren gives a snarky smile as she completes her set of perfect pas de bourree. I try desperately, awkwardly, to catch up to the count, knowing my entire career-to-be is ruined
"I knew you'd say something like that." Jacy sounds triumphant. "You always think you're going to tank a performance."
"I could easily blow a dance!"
"Not ever!" Jacy insists.
Pleased, I coat my lips with French Vanilla ChapStick. We've reached the intersection of Clinton and Montague. Clothing boutiques, Trinity Church and upscale art galleries line the sidewalks. Moving Arts Dance Studio stands across the avenue, west of the subway entrance.
"What's your worst nightmare?" I ask.
No answer. Instead, Jacy steps off the curband that's when I see it. Without a doubt, he could do the math: If an SUV travels at forty miles an hour and an idiot steps directly into its path, it would take X seconds to smash said idiot's brains
My arm shoots out. Desperate fingers pull his tee. "Watch out!"
A horn blares. Tires squeal. Jacy falls into the gutter with barely an inch to spare.
"Omigod!" I breathe. "Do you have any idea how close you came to roadkill?" He grins as he stands. "Don't laugh, Strode. It's, like, the third time you've done that since school let out!"
"Sorry?" I jerk him around so he has no choice but to stare directly into my eyes.
"I didn't see the car," he mumbles. "It came down the street really fast."
"Not that fast. I saw it."
"So you're Superman with X-ray eyes and I'm not." "Don't be a jerk," I say.
"I have to be someplace, and you're late." He makes a show of looking both ways. "Is it safe to cross now, Mommy dearest?"
I stare at him, and he actually waits for me to nod before stomping off toward the subway.
Now, how does that work?
Jacy's the one who does something stupid and I get snapped at. But that isn't the only thing that pisses me off. We've been together more than fifteen minutes, and he didn't bother to mention he's meeting someone.
Who? Jacy hasn't dated anyone since his spring breakup with Tiffany Kahlo. If he were hanging out with someone new, well, you'd think I'd be the first to know.
It's not like I'd be jealous or anything. Everyone knows it's a disaster to hook up with someone you've been friends with since third grade. A person you had to inform, at age twelve, that deodorant is a rather useful invention. Somebody you know goes commando on hot days and you don't even find it gross anymore. Put simply, Jacy and I have WTMI: Way Too Much Information about each other.
Whatever. By the time I enter Moving Arts, the line of tutu-skirted preschoolers waiting to check in for Fairy Tale Dance reaches halfway across the studio's air-conditioned lobby. The din is deafening, which is why I stamp at least fourteen class cards before realizing what should have been obvious.
What's the worst thing that can happen? With the stunt he pulled out on the street, Jeremy Carl Strode clearly avoided having to come up with an answer. That's when I decide there's a new question of the day. Whator maybe whois Jacy hiding?