The True Meaning of Cleavage

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fatal distraction

Chapter Four

On Monday while I'm on the bus to school, my Nice Self and my Pissed-Off Self have another argument.

Nice Self thinks I should ask Sari how the dance was. Pissed-Off Self says: Make her come groveling with apologies.

I really do think Sari owes me an apology. And I don't think I should speak to her until I get it.

The only problem is, I miss her.

Sometimes during a class, if I can't take what the teacher is saying for another minute, if I know I'm about to pass out cold from boredom, I ask to go to the bathroom. I take my book, and I just sit there and read, until my brain wakes up again.

That's exactly what happens to me just before Madame Balmain asks me to conjugate venir.

And that's how I end up hearing what I hear in the third floor girl's bathroom.

When I get there, I've got the place to myself. Then when I'm settled in the left hand stall, I hear the bathroom door open and what sounds like two or three girls come in. They're all talking at once, and at first it's kind of hard to tell who they are.

Then I peek under the stall door and see their shoes. Prada Mafia.

"God, could you believe her?"

"I just could not believe her."

Voice one is definitely Erica Trager. Voice Two is probably Michelle Watts, her dim flunky.

"I was just like, how trashy can you be?"

"Well." Big snort from Michelle. "Pretty trashy."

"Oh, yes." Erica's voice has turned all prim. "I forgot we were talking about Sari Aaronsohn."

Carefully, I lift my feet off the floor. I hope they don't notice that one door is closed.

"I mean, that skeleton costume she had on."

"Please, you mean sprayed on."

"So slutty."

I am about to get up and say who do you think are? when I hear Michelle say:

"And the way she was going after him."

I freeze. Who him? Which him?

"Oh, my God."

"Totally pathetic."

I'm dying to tell them how pathetic they are. But I also want to find out who they're talking about. So I stay where I am, quiet and hidden.

"I mean, good luck honey."

"Like he would ever look at her."

"Yeah. I mean, hello, when he's."

Their voices are fading out, so I don't get to hear who this guy is and why he would never look at Sari. Lots of guys look at Sari. Why wouldn't this one?

He probably would, I think, and that's what's got Erica and Michelle so twisted.

I sit there for a long time, thinking. Is this why Sari went to the dance? Because she wanted to see this guy? Or did it happen by accident? What I mean is, is this someone she really likes?

If it is, why didn't she tell me about him?

And who is he, anyway?

Back in French class, while Madame Balmain is enlightening us about the glories of the plus-que-parfait, I try to think of who could be Mr. Him. It could be Craig Schaeffer. Sari had a big crush on him last year. A few weeks ago, she called him a snot, but she could have been pretending. Or maybe it's Eric Reed, who used to have this big crush on Sari. At least he teased her a lot. But no way would Sari have to chase Eric Reed.

I seriously hope it's not Mr. Barry. If it's Mr. Barry, I will have to take Sari to one of those clinics where they fry your brains.

But if I'm honest, none of these guys feels like "Him."

So I guess I have to wait for Sari to tell me.

That is, if she ever speaks to me again.

At lunchtime, I'm sitting in the cafeteria, reading Hollow Planet, when I hear, "Hi."

I look up and see Sari. She's looking nervous, but also kind of pissed off. Like if I don't say exactly the right thing, she's ready to split.

I could just look back down at my book. Not say a thing.

But Sari did make the first move.

I figure the least I can do is move over so she can sit down.

Which I do, and she does.

For a second, we just sit there. Then I decide it's better to get everything out in the open. So I ask, "How was Friday night?"

Sari shrugs. "Okay. Kind of dumb."

Then she says, "It would have been better if you'd been there."

It's weird, how one nice thing can make you forget you were ever mad at someone.

To be nice back, I say, "Maybe next time, I'll come."

"Yeah?" Sari nudges me, like a dare or something.

"Yeah, maybe." Then I say, "I heard your costume was hot."

"Oh, yeah?" Sari brightens up. "Who from?"


"Um, some girl? I overheard her in the bathroom."

"Oh." I can tell from her face Sari is disappointed it was not "Him."

I decide to push a little. "So, who else was there?"

"Nobody, really."

I'm about to ask how she could hang with nobody for a whole dance, when she says, "How were the movies?"

I smile. "Kind of dumb. Definitely would have been better if you'd been there."

So, Sari and I are back to being friends. Everything's great, right?


Only here's the thing, Sari's not saying a word about Mr. Him. A week goes by, and nothing. I listen carefully whenever she talks about a guy or even Mr. Barry, but it's not like her eyes light up or anything.

At first I figure she doesn't want to bring up anything about the dance, since we had a fight about it. But then I realize, whatever happened at the stupid dance, whoever "Him" was, she's not going to talk about it, period.

Which I don't get. Sari always tells me everything. She's like that.

Was like that.

Is the guy so gross she's embarrassed? Or is it just me she doesn't want to tell for some reason? Why wouldn't she tell me?

Question: How do you get someone to tell you something they don't want you to know?

One day, I say in a casual voice, "I saw Craig Schaeffer checking out you out yesterday in assembly."

Now last year, Sari would have freaked if I said that. She would have demanded to know when, where, and for how long.

Now she just says, "Oh, barf."

I say, "I thought you liked him."

Sari looks at me like I'm demented. "Yeah, last year." In other words, a zillion eons ago when I was a mere child.

Okay, Craig's out.

The next day, I say, "You know who's looking kind of cute this year?"



Sari frowns. "Eric?"


Sari shrieks, "Oh, my God, I just ate."

Scratch Eric off the list. (As an added bonus, my best friend now thinks I have hideous taste in men.)

Finally, I'm left with my least favorite candidate, Mr. Barry. I will die if Sari likes Mr. Barry. It will be so creepy I won't be able to stand it. I'll have to kidnap her and drag her to some deprogramming center. (Probably the same one she wants to take me to now that she thinks I think Eric Reed is cute.)

One afternoon, after English class, I work up the nerve to ask her, "So, would you do it?"

"Do what?"

"With Mr. Barry."

Sari makes a very candid and believable face, and says, "GW." This means GagWretch.

Which means no.

Which makes me feel better.

Except that my supposed best friend is in love with someone and she doesn't trust me enough to tell me who it is.

But after another week with no clues, I'm starting to think maybe I overreacted. That I heard wrong, or.I don't know, imagined the whole thing. Or that Erica did. Probably all that happened at the Halloween party was Sari said Hi to some guy and Erica blew the whole thing out of proportion. Because she's jealous, and always has to have something nasty to say about somebody.

And that's all there is to it.

I feel seriously guilty. I can't believe I believed anything Erica Trager would say particularly about my best friend.

Resolved: Find some way to make it up to Sari that I believed Erica and not her.

On Friday, Sari and I are getting our stuff out of our lockers. I'm about to ask her if she wants to go for cheesecake, my treat, which I figure will be my secret apology.

Then all of a sudden, Sari whispers, "Whatever you do, do not turn around. Okay? And don't say anything."

I freeze. I am staring into my locker. Whatever is happening, I can't see it because the door is blocking my view. I am wondering why Sari doesn't want me to say anything, when I hear her say, "Hey, David."

David? Who is David?

Then I hear: "Hey, Ms. Skeleton."

David Cole? Sari is talking to David Cole? David Cole is talking to Sari?

"So, how's it going?"

"Good, cool."

I am dying to turn around. But I don't dare.

I hear Sari say, "Doesn't Ms. Brenner bite?"

"Oh, man, she's a dog."

There is more discussion of Ms. Brenner's similarity to a dog. (Looks, nasty personality, fleas.) I don't think this is very fair to Ms. Brenner or to dogs but I know if I say a word, Sari will rip me into tiny pieces and feed me to Ms. Brenner.

Finally, Sari says, "Well, I guess I'll see you around."

And David says, "Yeah, you might."

And then he's gone.

For a few seconds, I stare into my locker, trying to figure out what just happened here.

Finally, I turn around, and say, "Sari?"

She's staring down the hall, even though David is long gone. When I say her name again, she hisses, "Sh."

"Sari? What's going on?"

"I don't want to talk about it." Without me, she starts walking, running down the stairs like she's late for something. Except school's over and there's nothing to be late for.

I race after her, follow her out of the building.

For two blocks, Sari walks straight ahead, pretending like she doesn't even know I'm there. I fall in step next to her, pretending like nothing weird is going on. Then when we are far enough away from Eldridge for it to be safe, I say, "Don't tell me you like David Cole."

"I don't."

"You can't like David Cole."

"I don't 'like' David Cole."

"Yes, you do. And you can't. Because he's with Thea Melendez."

"I don't 'like' David Cole," says Sari stubbornly. "I am madly, psychotically in love with David Cole."

I stop. Don't even think about it, just.stop dead. And stare.

I do not have a clue what to say.

When your best friend tells you she is madly, psychotically in love with one half of the longest running official couple in the school, what can you say? Do you point out that David is a senior and Thea is a senior, and that Sari is seriously outranked? Do you remind her of the time David presented a dozen roses to Thea in the middle of class? Do you recall how Thea sang The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face directly to David at the Winter Wonder show?

People don't even laugh at David and Thea when they do these things. People think it's nice, romantic. That's how much of a couple they are.

David and Thea are gods. Acknowledgment of beings as low as we is strictly forbidden.

Finally, I say, "I don't get it."

Sari sighs, flops her arm in the air. "Get what?"

"The point of being in love with David Cole, I don't get it."

"Love doesn't have a point," says Sari. "It just is."

"But David is madly, psychotically in love with Thea."

"That's what you know," snaps Sari.

Why is that what I know, but not what Sari knows? That's what I want to know.

I ask her, and she says, "I'm not just going to blurt out the details of my personal life to you."

Okay, now I want to scream. I want to say, "Why not? Why is now so different from all those OTHER times you made me listen to every single detail of your oh so precious personal life? Why is suddenly talking to ME the worst, stupidest thing you could do?"

But in the end, all I say is, "Well, gee, then I guess I'll just have to go slit my wrists, I'm so disappointed."

"Oh, please." Sari sighs.

Sari is my best friend in the whole world. She is the greatest person in the world. But sometimes it's a problem: Sari thinking that she has a life and that I don't.

Crunch Time

In The Cards

Smart Girls Guide to Tarot

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