Brave New Girl

Brave New Girl

by Louisa Luna


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A fourteen-year-old trying to find her way in the world, Doreen is as much an outcast at school as she is at home. Marginalized by her peers, misunderstood by her parents, and mourning the loss of her older brother who disappeared when she was just a child, Doreen finds solace in her fierce love of music and in her best friend, Ted.
But when her older sister begins dating a bewildering twenty-one-year-old named Matthew, Doreen must confront feelings she never knew she possessed. Forced into adulthood kicking and screaming (not to mention swearing), Doreen ultimately impels her troubled family to forge a new understanding of the world — and, maybe more surprisingly, of one another.
High school is bad enough; it's worse when you have only one friend in the world and a family that just doesn't get it. This breathless coming-of-age novel explores the alienation of adolescence and introduces a bold and shimmering new voice in fiction.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780743407861
Publisher: MTV Books
Publication date: 02/01/2001
Edition description: Original
Pages: 208
Sales rank: 276,437
Product dimensions: 5.78(w) x 11.02(h) x 0.57(d)
Age Range: 15 - 17 Years

About the Author

Louisa Luna is the author of Brave New Girl and Crooked. She lives in New York City.

Read an Excerpt

Tracey says you¹re an idiot, you don¹t know anything, you¹re a kid, get the fuck out of my room. Dad says don¹t do anything stupid, no stupid children I made, don¹t cry it doesn¹t get you anywhere, only you can get you somewhere, don¹t screw up and leave me the mess to collect after. Mom says don¹t swear, don¹t go out with Ted so much, don¹t let people think you¹re filthy and fast, keep your room clean, do all your homework, make some friends who are girls. I don¹t say anything and just leave, because it¹s easier. Ted¹s waiting for me by the 7-Eleven, sitting on the curb, holding his skateboard. I walk up to him, and he looks up and squints because he¹s not wearing his glasses like he¹s supposed to. I got two bucks, he says. Cigarettes? I ask. I got a better idea. He stands up and kicks off on his skateboard and rides slow so I can keep up. What¹s going on? he asks me. Nothing. You going home for dinner? he says. I don¹t know. You can come over if you want. Will your mom be pissed? I ask. He shrugs. He says, She¹ll be having her own party. Ted¹s mom¹s a real bad drunk, and everyone knows it. That¹s part of the reason Mom doesn¹t like me hanging out with him, but it¹s mostly because she doesn¹t like me spending all my time with a boy. Ted¹s my only friend. We were each other¹s only friend in junior high, and I can¹t imagine people being any nicer in high school, so we¹re still going to be each other¹s only friend come September. Nobody likes him because he¹s quiet and dorky and not really cute and maybe looks a little too delicate. Nobody likes me because I¹m boring and don¹t say much and still dress like I¹m ten. It¹s superhot but you really can¹t expect anything else here in July. I hate walking around outside in this weather because I just don¹t stop sweating and the smog¹s really bad, and all I really want to do is lie down. But me and Ted keep going until we get to the Trader Joe¹s, and he tells me to wait, and he goes inside. He comes back with a bag of chocolate-mint UFO candies, and we sit down on the ground in the parking lot and don¹t say anything, and we eat them and eat them until they begin to taste chalky and we¹re so thirsty we could die. But we keep eating them until they¹re all gone and we both feel like throwing up. By the time I get home, the place smells like meat and onions, and I figure Mom¹s cooking steak. I go into the living room, and Dad¹s there drinking a scotch and asks where I¹ve been. I was out with Ted, I start to say, but before I can finish he¹s yelling, Tracey! Tracey comes out of her room, and she¹s wearing makeup and a tiny little T-shirt that says Hostess on it and makes her boobs look huge. There¹s this guy behind her, with her, I guess, and he has black hair and black eyes and he looks sort of mean, but when he sees me he smiles. What, Dad? Tracey says, sounding all sweet for her friend. Is your friend staying for dinner? Dad asks, not looking at either of them. Yeah. Mom said it was cool, Tracey says. Dad nods. Oh, Dor, she says, like she hasn¹t seen me in days. This is Matthew, she says. Matthew, this is my little sister, Doreen. Nice to meet you, Matthew says, holding out his hand, smiling, and I notice that his teeth look like a bunch of Chiclets. Hi, I say. Is that all you have to say? Tracey says, all annoyed. How are you? I say. Pretty good, he answers, and he laughs a little. My family¹s not very talkative, Tracey says, and then she laughs and makes herself sound real dumb. At dinner, Tracey keeps talking, and she keeps giving me looks, like I¹m supposed to ask questions and act interested, but I really don¹t have anything to say. Dad¹s actually speaking more than usual, and Matthew¹s saying some funny things I guess, and Dad¹s laughing, but he¹s really mostly tired like he is all the time, and I¹m pretty sure he¹s on his third scotch. Mom¹s smiling because she likes the boys Tracey brings home because they¹re all polite. I think they¹re pretty smarmy. Are you excited for high school, Doreen? Matthew asks, and I¹m caught off-guard because usually nobody asks me questions, specifically. I guess, I say. Don¹t be. It¹s dumb, he says. Then he winks at me. I feel a little twist inside my stomach. Then I keep eating, avoiding the steak because the smell of it is making me feel sick, and Tracey keeps yammering, which is enough to make anyone nauseous. I was talking to this girl, she says, whose boyfriend goes to Cal and he said that there was a really good linguistics . . . Blah blah blah. I look up at Matthew, thinking maybe he¹ll wink my way again, but he doesn¹t look at me. He doesn¹t look at Tracey either, though. Instead he¹s staring down at his plate. His steak and potatoes and salad and bread are all separated. He reminds me of a little kid. Don¹t let the food touch. I think maybe Matthew¹s what Henry looks like now. Except I¹m almost positive Henry doesn¹t have a mouthful of Chiclets. How old are you? I ask Matthew, while Tracey¹s in the middle of a sentence. Doreen, don¹t interrupt like that, Mom says. Say you¹re sorry, Dad says. Sorry. How old are you, I ask Matthew again. He looks right at me. Twenty-one. I don¹t say anything. Henry¹s twenty-four. Ten years older than me exactly. Almost to the day. He was born March second, and I was born March seventh. How old are you? Matthew asks, and I¹m a little surprised. Fourteen, I say. That¹s a great age to be, Matthew says. You just said high school¹s dumb, I say. Dor, Tracey says, kind of laughing, like it was a silly thing I just said. You¹re right. I did just say that, Matthew says. I guess I have mixed feelings on the subject. Everyone laughs a little. I don¹t get it. There¹s a knock. Yeah? I say. Hi, Matthew says. Can I come in? Sure, I say. I¹m lying on my bed, reading the playlist on this mix tape Ted gave me last year. He opens the door and smiles, walks in and starts checking out the stuff on my walls. You¹re a big Pixies fan, he says. Yeah, they¹re alright, I say, even though I know they¹re the best thing in the world. I like them too, he says. I watch him looking at everything, touching everything a little bit. He keeps talking to me but doesn¹t face me. He just stares at my wall, my CDs, the little picture of Ted that was taken when we were in the seventh grade, which is so old now that it¹s curling in at the edges. Is this your boyfriend? Matthew says, tapping it. No, he¹s just a friend. We¹re not going out or anything, I say. I don¹t even know if Matthew¹s still listening, so I just keep talking. Everyone thinks we are, though, I say. Like who? Matthew says. I guess he is listening. Everyone, I say. All the kids we go to school with, my mom . . . Don¹t you tell them how it is? he asks, interrupting, and now he¹s looking at me like it¹s the most important question he¹s ever asked anyone. No, I say. Why not? he asks. Because I don¹t care, really, what any of them think, I say. He smiles really slow now and gives me a nod. That¹s good, Doreen, he says. You shouldn¹t care what anyone thinks. I don¹t have anything else to say, but he keeps staring at me. So I just stare back and make it a game for myself‹how long can I go without blinking, and then I hear Tracey in the hallway. Matthew? she says. I¹m here, he says loudly, still staring. I¹m coming, he says. Then he just turns around and walks out without saying goodbye, and I shut my eyes, and they tear because they¹re so dry. Tracey¹s done some crazy things, I guess. She¹s stayed out all night without calling. She got caught drunk at her junior prom. She says she never became a real raver because all the ravers she knows are stupid. She¹s pretty stupid, though. I hear her on the phone sometimes, and I just want to rip the baby barrettes right out of her boy-haircut. She mostly kisses Mom and Dad¹s ass and then talks about how she owns them to her friends. She has a lot of friends. She always has boys calling her. Always has. She just can¹t wait to go to college in the fall so she can get out of the house and away from all of us. She hates me because I don¹t talk. She hates Mom because she¹s indifferent. She hates Dad because he¹s not really nice. She really doesn¹t remember Henry at all, but if he was around, I¹m sure she¹d hate him too. We should start a band, Ted says to me, sitting on the couch in his basement TV room, drumming the coffee table. I don¹t know how to play anything, I say. Doesn¹t matter, he says. We can learn. What should I play? I ask. Bass, he says. The best bands in the world have female bassists, he says. I get to name it, I say. OK, what do you want to name it? he says. I don¹t know yet, I say. We start making up a song we decide to call ³Crackbabies,² but basically it¹s all a joke and all we¹re doing is laughing so hard our faces hurt. Then his mom buzzes down on the intercom they have built into the phone. Ted, come up here please, she says. Ted gets all tight-looking and says, Be right back. You can put on MTV if you want. Then he leaves. I don¹t feel like putting on MTV because all they play is trash. I sit there with my feet on the coffee table, looking at the fake-wood walls and the brownish shag carpet that always smells a little funny. There¹s this ashtray on the table that¹s in the shape of a bathtub with a woman in it. Ted¹s mom smokes. I think that¹s strange‹the only people I see smoking are kids. We usually hang out in the basement when we¹re at Ted¹s, because you never know what kind of a mood his mom¹s going to be in. He likes me to see his mom the least amount possible. I can understand why, because she¹s done some pretty embarrassing things in front of me, but I don¹t really care. I don¹t like anyone to see my family either. The intercom buzzes again. Doreen? Ted¹s mom says. Yeah? I say. Could you come up here? she says. Sure, I say. I walk up the stairs, and I can hear Ted¹s mom talking really fast, and I can picture Ted even before I get to the kitchen. He¹s sitting there, slumped down in one of the chairs, not looking at his mom, not even looking at me when I come in. I don¹t think I¹m being unreasonable, baby, Ted¹s mom is saying. Doreen, let me ask you, she says. She¹s wearing a pink dress with big purple flowers. Mom, come on, Ted says, all red and sad-looking. Let me just ask her, she says, a little unsteady. Doreen, honey, let me just ask you this‹you guys are both pretty young, even though you¹re mature for your age‹I¹m not trying to . . . uh . . . say . . . She stops because she seems to be having trouble. She keeps shutting her eyes hard and holding onto the counter. I¹m saying, she says, What I¹m saying is . . . I¹m glad you¹re Ted¹s little girlfriend‹ Mom, stop, Ted says, looking up at her, then to me. Ted, just give me a second here, she says. I¹m trying to think. . . . You¹re a real nice girl, and it¹s no problem when you watch TV here, but Ted comes home so late all the time, and it¹s not right for two kids to be out so late all the time‹ Doreen, leave, Ted says, standing up, walking over to me. Now Ted¹s mom gets angry. You don¹t know, Ted, she says to him. I know, she says, her voice getting louder. I know what it¹s like. Get out, Ted says to me, taking my arm, pulling me over to the door to the backyard. Ted? Wait . . . Doreen, wait, you both don¹t know, I know, Ted¹s mom keeps saying. Here, Ted says, shoving his skateboard against me. I¹ll call you later, he says. I don¹t even nod. I just take the skateboard and tear out the door, running through Ted¹s backyard, hearing Ted¹s mom still screaming, You don¹t know . . . I know. I get around to the front driveway, and I can sort of still hear her, and I drop the skateboard and it slaps against the ground, and then I just go, faster and faster. Sorry, Ted says later, on the phone. Forget it, I say. I can¹t, Ted says. I hear him breathing on the other end, neither of us talking, and I say, I have. Ted doesn¹t understand that you can just forget things when you want to. It¹s a game. Just think like a little kid does and pretend something. Pretend you weren¹t in the room or pretend it wasn¹t you or pretend you were just the table or something instead of a body. It¹s only frustrating when you want to remember something and you can¹t. I wish I could remember Henry, but I really don¹t. I was only four when Dad made him leave, when he was fourteen. Sometimes I make up things about him‹my brother out there. Sometimes I have fantasies about him. He¹s really good-looking and strong in all the fantasies and he sweeps me up, and it¹s sort of romantic when I think about it. But he¹s in shadow or something, and I can¹t see his face, but he smells like cigarettes, not the way Ted does or any other boy I know does, more like burning wood. I wish I could remember what he really looks like, but we don¹t even have any pictures of him around because Dad threw them all out. I¹m surprised that I even know he ever existed. I hope he¹s far away or dead and doesn¹t remember any of us anymore. I wouldn¹t want to. My mother comes in with socks and underwear and shirts. She¹s opening and closing drawers and closets and talking at me, but I¹m not listening. What? I say. Listen when I talk to you, please, she says. Then she shifts and holds up a green blouse and gets all bright for a second. Why don¹t you ever wear this? she says, moonie-eyed. I shrug. Well? she says. I don¹t like blouses, I say. I can hear her wind up tight as a knot. You can¹t wear boys¹ clothes forever, she says, sounding very tense. I shrug again. Did you wash your hair today, Doreen? she asks. I nod. You have to wash your hair every day. You have to take a shower every day. You¹re really not a child anymore, she says. She¹s talking to me like I¹m a homeless person or something. I shower every day because I don¹t like the way me or my clothes smell when I don¹t. Tracey might be able to show you how to fix your hair nice, she says, soft now, still folding laundry. Great, I think. What I really want is quality time with Tracey since she just has so many interesting things to say. Doreen, Mom says, all weary, picking up a CD that is out of its case. Doreen, if you leave them out like that, they¹re going to get ruined. She holds the CD like it¹s a dirty sock and says, Where¹s the case to this one? I don¹t know, I say. Well, you can¹t just leave it lying around like that, she says. Actually, if you put it face down, it¹s kind of OK, I say. Alright, fine, she says, like we¹ve been arguing for so long and she¹s finally giving in. I don¹t know why Mom has to treat CDs and things like they¹re little people. If it gets ruined, she says on her way out, don¹t say I didn¹t try. Then she leaves, and when I know she can¹t hear me I say, I won¹t. I¹m sitting in the living room with Matthew because Tracey¹s still getting ready. She gave him a magazine because I¹m sure she figures I don¹t have anything to talk about with him. So I start flipping through one because there¹s nothing else to do. It¹s one of those dumb women fashion magazines that Tracey leaves lying around. Articles with titles like, ³What Men Love² and ³All About Orgasms.² Of course Tracey reads this shit. She probably makes notes in the margins. I look up for a second, and Matthew¹s not reading the magazine Tracey handed him. He¹s just looking at me. I don¹t know what his trip is, but he¹s really into staring at people. I don¹t think he does it to be rude, though. Do you want a newspaper or something? I ask him. He shakes his head. I look back down at the magazine I¹m holding, but I know he¹s still staring. I can tell when someone¹s looking at me. It¹s like I can feel it or something. I look back up at him. Do you want to read this magazine? I say, holding mine out, thinking maybe that¹s why he¹s staring. No thanks, he says. I start to read again, but I can¹t concentrate when I know someone¹s staring at me, and he¹s not being very subtle about it. Can I get you anything? I ask, thinking maybe he wants a soda or something. No thanks, he says. Doreen, am I making you nervous? No, I say. It¹s just that I thought maybe you wanted a soda or something. Or your magazine, he says. Do you want it? I ask, holding the magazine out to him and now I¹m all confused. No, no, he says, sort of laughing, and then he stops all of a sudden. I don¹t need anything, he says. I¹m just fine. I nod for a second, and then I figure I shouldn¹t go back to reading the magazine since we¹ve like, started talking. Normally, with the tools Tracey dates, I don¹t give a shit what they think. But it seems like Matthew¹s sort of a sensitive type, even though he¹s a little weird. Suddenly, I don¹t want to offend him or anything. How¹s your friend? Matthew asks me. My friend? Your friend not-your-boyfriend, he says. Oh, Ted. He¹s fine, I say. I think it¹s kind of strange that he brought Ted up. I mean, he doesn¹t really know me, and he¹s never met Ted, and he¹s asking how Ted is. Mom and Dad don¹t even ask me how Ted is. It¹s good that you have a friend, he says. He¹s really into telling me what I¹m doing right. I didn¹t have any friends when I was your age, he says. Really? I say, because it¹s hard for me to believe. He looks like such a scenester, like the kind of guy who¹s always had a bunch of friends. Really, he says. Nobody liked me . . . everyone thought I was strange. I sort of want to say, well, that¹s a big fucking surprise, but I don¹t. It kind of makes me feel good he told me that. I suddenly wonder if he¹s told Tracey that. Did you get more friends . . . I mean, as you got older? I ask. Not really, he says, when I got to college I did, But before that, no . . . except for my girlfriend in high school. I feel like saying, well that counts. Why wouldn¹t a girlfriend count? I wonder if he¹s lying just to make some connection with me. Tracey probably told him I¹m a big loser. He probably feels like he¹s doing something really nice. Your girlfriend wasn¹t your friend? I ask. Oh no, I didn¹t mean that, he says, real quick to clear this up. She was my best friend, my only friend. It¹s just that when we were seventeen, he says, and then he just stops, leaving his thought hanging like that. I hate it when people don¹t finish their sentences. It drives me right up the wall. You guys broke up? I suggest. Yeah. We broke up, he says. He doesn¹t say anything else. He just sits there and smiles at me, and I don¹t know what to say again. Well, I¹m sorry, I say. Thanks, Doreen, he says. That means a lot to me. Whatever man, I¹m thinking. Glad I¹ve made such an impact. He smiles at me more, and I don¹t even really think about it, but I¹m smiling back. I guess it was kind of nice of him to tell me that what I said meant a lot to him. Even if he doesn¹t really mean it. Sometimes, when I¹m listening to music, when I listen to the Pixies, I feel like I could scream. I feel like my skin¹s coming right off me or something. I feel like a whole bunch of bones. It¹s like some music¹s got a direct line to my insides, and when I hear it, I go crazy all over, crazy and turned-on and hysterical and so different from the way I look to everyone on the outside that when I look in the mirror, I don¹t really recognize myself. It¹s like I want to have sex or kill someone when I feel like that, and then I think I¹m pretty crazy and I can¹t ever tell anyone I have those feelings. Not Ted. Not anyone. I find my father in the living room after he has just come home from work. My mother has made him a plate of crackers and cheese, and he¹s eating them loudly. He doesn¹t really look at me when I come in, and then I feel dumb, because I don¹t remember what I came in for. Doreen, he says, what are you doing? I don¹t know what to say to this. Right now? I ask. You¹re not doing anything with yourself this summer, he says. Now I know I¹m in for it. The next words out of his mouth, I swear to God, are, There¹s no excuse to sit around when you¹re young . . . No reason for a capable young girl to do nothing with herself for three months, he says. There¹s really only two months left, I say. That¹s a lot of hours, Dor, he says. A lot of hours to be spent constructively. Dad¹s all about spending hours constructively. He¹s efficient as all hell, Dad. He works hard, I guess, but I think he hates it, so he basically wants to make me work hard and hate it too, and he finds some kind of pleasure in that. He sells sporting goods. Not in a store, but in a company that sells sports stuff to stores. It used to be kind of fun because there was all this equipment around all the time, red four-square balls and badminton rackets, things like that. We weren¹t supposed to touch any of it but I would anyway, and I really liked the way it smelled, real leathery and new. He stopped keeping the stuff at home when he stopped traveling around a few years ago. I guess he told his boss he wanted to spend more time with his family, which I personally find hysterical because whenever he¹s home, he looks like he¹d rather be scraping his teeth against the curb than be with any of us. Not that I mind. Doesn¹t exactly keep me up nights. I guess he¹s trying to give me a work ethic or something, but it¹s kind of hard to want a work ethic when the only person you know who has one is a complete asshole. The main reason I hate him is because he made Henry leave. I don¹t know details because I was only four, but I think Henry just pissed Dad off for the last time and Dad told him to go. I also know that Henry was pretty crazy; he bit Mom once when he was eleven because she wouldn¹t let him go out with his friends or something. I think they look at him like he was a fluke, a mistake-kid. They really avoid talking about him at all costs, like if they say his name, that¹ll bring him back, and they¹d be angry because they¹d have to admit that they¹d missed him. I don¹t even know if Dad misses him. Dad wants people to follow in a line. He sort of treats me like the son Henry never was. He¹s always telling me to take responsibility for everything, to figure out my life now and be brilliant and do something incredible. And it¹s like, Dad, I just graduated eighth grade‹I¹m not exactly ready to be the surgeon general. He likes the fact that Tracey¹s girly and has boyfriends and probably is going to marry rich. For whatever reason, she got the girl slot in Dad¹s head, while I¹m the un-girl. So I¹ve pretty much stopped expecting life lessons from Dad, and I¹m reminded of this as he tells me, Clean out the garage. The next morning I go out to our garage, which is this room behind our house, sort of. I don¹t know why they even call it a garage, seeing that nobody parks their cars in there‹they just use the driveway in front. The garage is such a mess all the time, and Mom and Dad go back and forth and try to get the other to clean it, I guess, but nobody ever does. Probably because it¹s such a pit. I start by just putting junk in boxes‹books and magazines and lamps and stuff that looks like it¹s been ripped out of a car. I don¹t know if this is what Dad meant by cleaning out the garage, but I don¹t really care too much. I guess it¹s something to do. Pretty soon I¹m sweating because it¹s so hot‹it seems to be getting hotter and hotter around here, and I picture it getting so hot that the ground has to crack open just so the dirt underneath can breathe. Most of this stuff I¹ve never seen before, and there¹s probably no good reason why Mom and Dad have decided to keep it, except that it¹s too much trouble to throw it away. More and more books, which seems strange to me. Mom reads whatever looks steamy on supermarket shelves, with titles like Passion¹s Flame and Regretful Sunrise. And all Dad reads is the newspaper and maybe a magazine, if he¹s feeling really daring. Point is, I¹ve never seen them read any of the books I keep dusting off and sticking in boxes‹Moby Dick, Robinson Crusoe, Great Expectations. There¹s also a giant road atlas and a dictionary. I¹m not too big on reading. My head jumps around too much. I¹d rather go see a band play. I wish I was a big reader, though. When you hear about people who everyone hated in junior high but then became a movie star or a famous writer or a Nobel Pulitzer winning whoever, they¹re always saying stuff like they were always in a corner, reading book after book while all the cool kids laughed. I don¹t know. I¹ve read Catcher in the Rye, but I can¹t even say it¹s my favorite book because it¹s everyone¹s favorite book. It¹s Tracey¹s favorite book, for God¹s sake. And I hate her for it, because she¹s always said she¹s in love with Holden Caulfield, but I know if she ever met Holden Caulfield, if Holden Caulfield had the courage to talk to her at one of the dumb parties she goes to, she wouldn¹t look at him twice because he¹d be too skinny or too weird or he¹d have too many freak-outs, and he wouldn¹t be some Calvin Klein type with a Caesar haircut and an eyebrow ring. € € € Later I¹m standing by the window in the living room and I see Ted coming up the driveway on foot, and I¹m down the hall and out the door before anyone asks me anything. Hey, says Ted. Hey. What¹s going on? Oh, you know. Little of this, little of that, he says. Ted always says that, and I never know what the hell he¹s talking about. We start walking around my block. I saw Karen Percy at the 7-Eleven, he says. She was with a guy from the high school, but he looked sort of girly‹not gay, but I mean he could be a girl, Ted says. How did you know it wasn¹t a girl? I ask. Because I heard him speak, he says, And he had a really deep voice, but he was really thin, you know, like girls are. Well, did he have tits? I ask. Not that I could see. But anyways, I caught myself, before he spoke, I caught myself looking at his ass, because I thought it was a girl¹s ass, he says. That¹s pretty sexy, Ted, I say, and he punches me in the shoulder. I always find myself in these kinds of conversations with Ted. He feels the need to share a lot. I guess if he stopped, though, I¹d miss it. Ted lights a cigarette and offers me one, and I take it. I¹m not a big smoker, but Ted likes to, and I sort of like the way it looks on him, and on me for that matter. But when Ted smokes, it¹s kind of strange because he¹s so young-looking. He¹s been smoking for as long as I can remember. He used to steal them from his mom until he realized she didn¹t care. I guess that took the fun out of it. I remember once, when Ted was telling his mom to go to bed because she was tired, when she actually had just drank about a gallon of Jack Daniels, she threw a pack of her Merit Ultra Lights or whatever at him and told him to relax. I guess when you¹re as tired as Ted¹s mom is, you don¹t care if your kid smokes or not. As we start to turn away from my block, I see a car pull up in front of my house. Then I see Tracey and Matthew get out of it, and I figure it¹s Matthew¹s car. What are you looking at? Ted asks. Is that Tracey? he says. I nod, and then I sort of crouch down behind a car, and I pull Ted down with me. What are we doing? he says. Who¹s that guy? he asks, squinting. Matthew, I say, and then I watch them. I watch Tracey pull Matthew toward the house, or try to, but he¹s really not moving away from his car. Then she gets up close to him and kisses him, and something turns inside me, and I look down. When I look back up, Tracey¹s going inside, and the car is pulling away. What¹s wrong with you? Ted says. You look weird. Nothing, I say, and I stand up and start walking. You¹re such a liar, Ted says, catching up to me. Do you like that guy or something? he asks. Just shut up, I say. He¹s Tracey¹s boyfriend for chrissake. So? Ted says. That could mean you see what she sees in him. It actually means that there must be something wrong with him, if he likes hanging out with Tracey, I say. So if he wasn¹t going out with her, would you like him, a guy like that? he asks. I haven¹t thought about it, I say, and I know Ted knows I¹m lying again. I go into Tracey¹s room when she¹s not there. I¹ve never done this before, and she¹d have a fit if she found out. But now, for whatever reason, I go poking around her room. I look at the posters on her wall‹all these British pop bands she likes, like Blur and Pulp, and I sort of like them, but when I think of her and all her friends driving around in someone¹s daddy¹s Lexus, singing those songs, it sort of makes me sick. Her room is pretty neat and orderly and I start opening drawers, looking at her extra-small T-shirts and, from here, I can see into her closet, full of retro clothes and like, nine pairs of superhip shoes. Tracey¹s all about hip. I go into her desk drawer, and I don¹t even know why I¹m doing it. It¹s like I¹m looking for something specific, but I¹m not, I swear. I find her stash of acid‹three or four tiny little tabs with hearts on them. I¹ve never done any of that stuff. Everything is fucked-up enough; I don¹t see why anyone would want to make the whole thing scarier and Technicolor. I close the drawer at exactly the right time because Tracey comes through the door right after. What the fuck are you doing? she says, her eyes all wide and angry. I¹m looking for my Sonic Youth CD, I say. Which one? she says, a little chilled out, believing that maybe I wasn¹t rifling through her personal things. Dirty, I say. Why would I have that? she asks me, as if I¹m crazy, as if I thought she borrowed my golf clubs or something. You know I hate that one, she says. Everyone knows that one¹s a joke. You¹re such a music snob, I say quietly. Oh, shut up, Doreen, she says, world-weary, like she¹s just had the toughest day. Where have you been? I ask. Why do you care? I shrug. You know, I mean, what have you been doing? I say. What¹s up with all the questions, Dor? she says, reaching over, grabbing her cordless phone. Out of all the things I hate about Tracey, number one might be how she and her dumb friends start the majority of their questions with ³What¹s up with² dot dot dot. Could you leave now? she says to me as she¹s on the phone. Then she starts talking. Hey, Matthew, she says, it¹s me, it¹s about four-thirty, gimme a call. Then she hangs up, and she looks at me, just standing there. What? she says. Do you really like this guy? I ask. Why do you care? she fires back. I¹m just asking, I say. Do you? Sure, she says, shrugging. He¹s a little weird though. Weird how? I say. He just says weird things sometimes, she says, leaning up to crack her back, which sounds like popcorn popping. All of sudden, I feel pissed off at her, like she doesn¹t get anything. Maybe he¹s like, a serial killer or something, I say. Jesus Christ, he is not, she says, looking straight at me. You never know, I say. Would you please leave now? she says, getting tense, and I like it a little bit. Or maybe he has some kind of disorder or something, I say. Doreen, get the fuck out of my room, she says. I leave, and I can¹t explain why I feel the need to be such a little shit sometimes. It gets old just watching everything. I could¹ve been arrested once, when I was twelve. I swear to God. I was with Ted. We were out too late for kids that age‹it must have been past eleven or something. I¹d climbed through the rectangle sliding window in my room, because Mom and Dad would¹ve busted veins in their heads if they¹d known I was going out that late. I still climb through that window when Mom and Dad get pissed off for whatever and don¹t want me going out, but I used to do it a lot more. I¹d mostly just meet Ted, and we¹d just go to 7-Eleven for a Tiger¹s Milk Bar or something. Not exactly a dance party, but it was something to do. We¹d just walk around and talk about nothing, and nobody would really be out except the high school kids, and we¹d see their cars every once in a while, swerving down dark streets. We could hear them yell and sing along with whatever goddamn Young MC bullshit they were playing, all drunk off cases of Bud somebody got with his brand-new fake ID. I was pretty scared, actually. Not of the high school kids, but just of being out that late. It felt real quiet out there, and you could hear every noise your body made. Your feet on the pavement, your jeans against your legs, your breathing sounds. I think Ted was nervous too. Now, we¹re both used to it. But then, it was scary. We were just kids, though. We should have been in bed. This one time, Ted and I were out at the 7-Eleven, and we had some Tiger¹s Milk Bars and soda, I think, and he had his mom¹s cigarettes. And we walked around to the back, where it was all fluorescently lit on the back parking lot, the blacktop, where no one was, and where the light sort of tapers off where the Dumpsters are. We decide

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