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Authors: Lauren Frankel

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BOOK: Hyacinth Girls
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—

I burned the soufflé I tried to make that night. It was cheese and broccoli, so it stank up the house. I could still smell its charred odor in my hair when I took the call from Callie's school the next day. My hands were clammy as I waited for the news, but then Mrs. Jameson surprised me. A group of students from Callie's class had come forward unexpectedly. Each one had sworn that Robyn put the paint on herself.

Paint, I thought triumphantly, not ink at all.

Mrs. Jameson was remarkably unapologetic. “The interesting thing is,” she said, “the student who originally reported the incident came to me today and told me she'd been wrong. She said she'd made a mistake. I thought it was quite a coincidence, everyone coming out with the same story like you said.”

Her voice was skeptical, as if she was planning to tell me that everyone was lying except for precious Robyn.

“Well, I'm relieved that you listened to them,” I said harshly. “And I hope you'll hold these girls accountable for the lies that they've told.”

“Yes,” Mrs. Jameson said. “Thank you for your help.”

—

We celebrated together. After dinner, I took Callie out for ice cream and we sat on a wooden bench, licking our cones. She poked holes into her strawberry scoop using her tongue and snorted as she wiped pink ice cream from her nose. “I hope you write this down,” I said. “Because it's so unbelievable and dramatic.” I crunched my cone, shaking my head. “You've got the villain pretending to be a victim. The dim-witted queen who almost allows a great injustice to occur. And then the condemned heroine who's saved at the last moment by a righteous crowd. Pretty incredible. Don't you think?”

“Like a fairy tale,” she said lightly. “Oh, dreams can come true.”

I wrapped my arm around her freckled shoulders, and the easy sugary feeling lasted until later that night when the phone started to ring. I was already in bed watching a cooking show on TV. “Can we talk?” the woman asked. It was Cerise Doblak. Robyn's mother.

“I've decided to pull Robyn out of school,” she said tersely. “I don't know if you're aware of what Robyn's had to endure over the past few months, but we just can't take it anymore.”

I quickly muted the TV, feeling unfairly ambushed.

“Robyn used to have friends. She used to be happy. But some of the girls came up with the delightful idea of taunting her about her breasts and now she can't even walk into a classroom without being barked at like a dog. It's sickening. And Callie's little stunt the other day was the absolute last straw.”

There was a gulping silence on the line, the sound of a woman coming unglued. I tried to maintain my composure.

“She used to be happy—” she said.

“I'm sorry she's unhappy.” I took a breath, propping myself up against the headboard. “But whatever she's told you about Callie, it isn't true. Callie wouldn't hurt a fly. It's been difficult for us to understand why Robyn's making up these stories.”

Cerise gave a horrifying snort of laughter. “Making them up? Has it ever occurred to you that Callie is lying?”

“Everyone came forward to defend her after
Robyn
lied.”

“That was a great stunt. Getting everyone to lie. Getting everyone to blame Robyn.”

I imagined Cerise's spittle drying on the mouthpiece of her phone. I wondered if she was maybe a little unbalanced.

“This isn't some conspiracy.” I lowered my voice. “The class came forward because it was true.”

“They've all turned against her.” Her voice broke. “They hate—”

“She bothered Callie before,” I said. “She's said terrible things about Callie's mother. She told her her mother died because she couldn't stand to look at her.”

“She never—” Cerise began. “Robyn wouldn't.”

“Maybe she needs help.”

“She wouldn't say that,” Cerise protested. “Her own father passed away.”

“A therapist, maybe.”

“Robyn can be immature. She doesn't always notice when she's irritating people. And I should've been more careful about her clothes, but I know she's not lying. I know when she comes home crying, telling me all the things they've done to her…” Cerise's voice changed then; it became fast and spiteful. “The truth is, Callie targets her. She masquerades as this perfect girl, but she's cruel underneath. She
humiliates Robyn and I fear for her future. That kind of person, that kind of—”

I don't remember hanging up the phone, but suddenly her voice was gone. I unmuted the TV and stared at the screen. Like mother, like daughter. They both needed help. Bipolar, schizophrenic, messed-up people. I left the phone off the hook so she couldn't call back, but my stomach bubbled with acid and I clutched it in pain.

Callie was in the kitchen. She stood beneath the small yellow light in bare feet, staring into the open cupboards. She had opened all of them. A bag of pretzels was on the counter.

“Cal? Are you okay?”

She turned to me, her hair loose around her shoulders, her eyes squinty with surprise. “I forgot it was my turn to bring snacks in for science.”

“You'll never guess who just called me,” I said, holding my stomach. Callie's lips parted as if she was trying to take in more air, and then she leaned against the counter, knee bouncing up and down. It bounced faster and faster as I told her that Robyn was leaving.

Callie wrapped her arms around her waist, and her face looked a little green. “They'll say she's leaving because of me.”

“They won't. They defended you.”

“But it's all too drastic. I can't believe she would leave.”

I watched Callie's face. Did I wonder? For a second.

“Her mom said you guys make fun of Robyn's chest.”

“Her chest?” Callie echoed, her knee suddenly still. She tipped her chin upward, and I saw water brimming through her lashes. Then she grabbed the bag of pretzels and hugged it to her.

“They called her Bullets,” she said, gazing at the floor.

“They did…not you?”

“They called her stuff,” she stammered. “They said stuff.”

“But not you?”

“No, I would never.”

“Did you try to help her?”

“I wanted to,” she said. “I knew I should, but I didn't know how. I just…couldn't.”

 

All My Interactions with Robyn Doblak, #2

For Rebecca/From Callie

I'm counting IMs, okay? I'm just going to print them out for you.

IM Dec 23 2008 20:03:16

19:54:21

robynroarxo:
Callie? Is this you?

19:54:54

LithoCALpus:
Hiiiiiiiiiiiiiii?

19:55:12

robynroarxo:
It's Robyn from school

19:55:27

LithoCALpus:
Hi Robyn

19:55:59

robynroarxo:
So ever since Friday I've been reading about pit bulls. I keep telling everyone they're not psycho killers!!!

19:56:20

LithoCALpus:
Mega. Thnx!

19:56:48

robynroarxo:
just cuz a few go psycho doesn't mean they're all that way

19:56:59

robynroarxo:
it's just their owners that make some bad.

19:57:46

LithoCALpus:
yup, some people DEFINITELY shouldn't be ALLOWED to own dogs

19:58:07

robynroarxo:
I know, and cats too. My aunt has this cat who's totally EVIL.

19:58:27

robynroarxo:
so anyway I was wondering where you got yr pit bull wristband.

19:59:02

LithoCALpus:
Hold on a sec. I'll find the link.

19:59:14

robynroarxo:
cuz I wanna get one too.

19:59:40

LithoCALpus:
Pitbulllove.com

19:59:55

robynroarxo:
thx and sorry about Friday I'm not usually such a mess!!!

20:00:35

LithoCALpus:
no worries I get it.

20:00:47

robynroarxo:
Christmas SUX w/o my dad

20:01:01

LithoCALpus:
TOTALLY

20:01:13

robynroarxo:
Your mom's dead right?

20:01:50

robynroarxo:
Sorry don't mean to be nosy

20:02:06

LithoCALpus:
No it's okay…My mom AND my dad

20:02:50

robynroarxo:
Urgh
sorry

20:02:58

LithoCALpus:
Don't worry

20:03:10

robynroarxo:
anyway merry sucky Christmas

20:03:16

LithoCALpus:
thx. You too.

BOOK: Hyacinth Girls
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