siobhan vivian - not that kind of girl (9 page)

BOOK: siobhan vivian - not that kind of girl
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Finding a good Halloween costume proved more of a challenge than tracking down the Holy Grail. And for a place that billed itself a Halloween Superstore, the selections were pathetically limited. "I hope we find costumes that work together," Autumn said. "Me too," I said, and thought of Marci Cooperstein. Now that the two of them had buried the hatchet, I wanted to make sure Marci didn't get any ideas. Autumn was my best friend, and I wasn't going to let Marci weasel her way back in. Autumn forgave her, but that didn't mean they could pick up where things had left off before the whole Fish Sticks thing. Autumn said, "It's kind of crazy that we've never gone to one single dance together. I mean, it's not like we're homeschooled or something." Autumn's breakup with Chad had happened right before the Halloween dance, when we were freshmen, so of course we avoided it. The following years, it seemed like a weird anniversary, remembering everything that had happened, so we'd always done our own thing. "I wouldn't get too excited about this dance," I said. She got pouty. "Why?" "Well, I don't want you to set yourself up for disappointment. I mean, how great could a school dance really be? We're still going to be in the gym, where we've all sweated and done crunches, and it smells like feet. Not to mention that running a dance is a TON of work, on top of all my regular obligations." "You are such a downer, Natalie." Ever since the girls' night, Autumn had been acting different. Happier, I guess. I knew I should have been glad about this. But for whatever reason, it gave me a bad feeling. "I don't see any adult costumes," I said, turning the corner on another aisle. "Everything's for kids." "Not everything," Autumn said. She stood in front of a beaded curtain and pulled her hand across it, as if it were an oversize guitar she could strum. Pink fluorescent light poured out from the room. I followed Autumn inside. "Okay," I said warily. "I think you found the adult section." Autumn looked over the racks. "So are you looking for something more of a French maid, or maybe..." She started laughing so hard she could barely breathe. "What?" I asked. She pulled a rainbow colored tube dress from off the rack and held it up to herself. "Slutty clown? Who would buy this?" I bit my finger. "Ringling Brothers says I'm a very bad girl!" We spent the next ten minutes cracking ourselves up over these stupid costume choices, which were either confusingly slutty or completely androgynous. A bunch of other shoppers got annoyed. In their defense, we were being really loud. Only I didn't care. It felt like old times, when Autumn and I could be silly with reckless abandon. I wasn't any closer to finding a costume, though, and that pissed me off. "Great," I said. "So I can either be a whore nurse or some disgusting cow with big plastic pink udders." "Wait a minute. This one is actually kind of cute." Autumn held up a dress shimmering with blue and green and white iridescence. It looked a bit clingy, but at least it was long--stretching all the way to the floor. "Game-show hostess?" I guessed. "Nope." Autumn plopped a long blond wig on her head and wrapped a black shawl around her shoulders. It was a loose net, with plastic pink starfish and green sea horses glued on. "It's a mermaid costume! What do you think? It's cute, right?" "Autumn..." I didn't know how to finish. Honestly, I shouldn't have had to finish. It was so apparent. "Okay," she said in a sour voice, and hung it back up. "Never mind." I felt terrible, but why was Autumn trying to make me feel bad for pointing out the obvious? What kind of friend would I be if I let Autumn wear that costume, especially since she was so desperate to have a good time at the dance? It'd be like walking into the lion's den wearing a suit made of steaks. "Forget this place," I said. "Let's make our own costumes. It'll be fun." "But you're so busy with student council stuff," she pointed out. "You won't have time. We've barely hung out since the election. And the dance is next week." I was annoyed, because this was my very concern in September, and was why I'd wanted Autumn to think about being vice president with me. But it was too late for any of that now. "I'll make time," I told her. "I promise." "So what should we be? Can we still try to make the joint costumes work?" I said yes. And I meant it--at least until we were on the way out of the costume shop, and I saw a brown, fake leather pilot's hat and a pair of big black goggles. I knew immediately: I wasn't going to be slutting it up or dumbing myself down this Halloween. I was going to be Amelia Earhart. CHAPTER EIGHTEEN When I stepped though the doors of the gym on Halloween night, I could hardly believe how awesome it looked. I mean, it had looked good when I'd finished decorating after school, but everything was way better in the dark. The bleacher railings were covered in spiderwebs. The cardboard gravestones we'd made last week actually appeared real in the low light. Pumpkins cordoned off the dance floor from the rest of the gym, and the DJ we'd hired brought lots of flashing lights and a smoke machine. The whole room was misty. You couldn't see the lines on the floor or the gym mats or anything. Autumn came running up to me. "You're finally here!" I couldn't believe my eyes. Autumn was wearing the mermaid costume from the Halloween shop. Before I could even come up with something to say, she wrapped me in a big hug--well, as much of a big hug as she could manage, considering that I was standing inside a cardboard airplane that hung from my shoulders by a pair of twine suspenders. "Your costume looks amazing, by the way. I can't believe you made it." "Not without a price." I held up my hand and showed Autumn how raw the sides of my fingers were from cutting through the cardboard with a dull pair of scissors. Aside from my injury, I loved my Amelia Earhart costume. I had on the cream-colored silk blouse I bought to wear for college interviews and a pair of brown pants tucked into my leather riding boots. I'd curled the ends of my hair and pinned it all up so it looked like a bob. And the pilot hat and goggles looked great. But the plane made moving around a little unwieldy--I should have made my wingspan a little less broad. "I ran out of time to make something," Autumn admitted, looking down at her slinky gown. "Oh." I didn't know what she wanted me to say. She already knew I thought it was a bad idea. Autumn leaned in close to my face. Her eyes got wide. "Do you have makeup on?" I shrugged my shoulders--Autumn's excitement embarrassed me. "Just lipstick. Amelia would have worn it, so I borrowed a little bit from my mom for authenticity's sake." It wasn't true. Amelia was known to be almost androgynous. But I'd enjoyed putting on the cherry red color and then carefully blotting my lips on a square of toilet paper, leaving a kiss behind. I'd never worn lipstick before. Burt's Bees, sure, but nothing so dramatic. I couldn't help but wonder if Connor would notice. "I can't believe all these people are dancing," I shouted over the pulsing music. A big mob of kids undulated up and down together. "I know! And it's not just the girls. Even some of the football guys are out there." So the football boys had come. I wasn't sure if school dances would be "cool enough" for them. They were probably just there for the hoagies. I wanted to see what Connor's costume was, if he'd even bothered to dress up. Autumn took my hand and dragged me away from the wall and deeper into the gym. I looked around, but because of the lights and the smoke and the costumes, I had a hard time making anyone out. "Do you want to get something to drink?" I shouted over the music. She nodded, and together we walked over to the refreshment table. That's where all the teachers were standing in costume. Principal Hurley looked totally appropriate in army fatigues and shiny black lace-up boots. The only teacher without a costume was Ms. Bee. And even though it made everyone else around her look kind of stupid, I felt a little sad for her. Like for some reason, Ms. Bee couldn't dress up, even if she wanted to. Her eyes lit up when she saw me. "Oh, Natalie! I absolutely love your costume. Promise me you'll let me take a photo with you before the night is over." Her smile dropped to a frown as her eyes went over my shoulder. "I only wish other girls would follow your lead. Principal Hurley and I discussed the possibility of imposing a costume dress code for next year's dance." I turned and saw Spencer. I'd sort of expected her costume to be over the top, and, sure enough, she had transformed herself into a slutty construction worker. But her costume didn't look cheap and plasticky, like the kind of prepackaged outfits they sold in the back room at the Halloween shop. It was well made, obviously one of her dance costumes from an old routine. It dawned on me that Spencer's closet was probably a Halloween treasure trove. Her outfit consisted of a skintight little denim mini-dress cut to look like a pair of overalls. She had a tight white cami on underneath, and the whole thing fit her like a corset, her boobs bubbling up over the top. The skirt stopped right underneath her butt cheeks, and when she dipped and bent to the music, you got flashes of a pair of electric orange booty shorts. A cropped mesh vest, reflective orange, hung over her shoulders like a shrug. She had on a hard hat, and a tool belt full of plastic toy tools. And--who knows where she got these--it was all topped off by a pair of Timberland-style lace-up high-heeled boots. She really, truly, looked like a stripper. And she really, truly didn't care. She danced between two of the football players. One was Mike Domski, dressed in a black-and-white striped jailbird outfit, with a broken set of handcuffs twirling around his wrist. You could tell Mike was totally into Spencer. He wouldn't take his eyes off her. And the other guy making the Spencer sandwich, Paul Zed, didn't even have a costume on. Just an enormous Afro wig. Both boys pressed against Spencer, squeezing her in between them. She looked like she was having the time of her life. Behind them, I noticed Dianna Berry, a girl in my AP French class, dressed in a plaid bodice, white stockings, and stacked penny loafer heels, puffing on a pipe. I laughed so hard I almost spit out my Coke. After Autumn and I were out of earshot of Ms. Bee, I said, "Is Dianna supposed to be Slutty Sherlock Holmes? Oooh! I'll solve that mystery...and then give you a lap dance! Seriously. I would have thought she was better than that." "Dianna's a nice girl," Autumn said. I shook my head. "What does that have to do with anything?" "She's just having fun." She said it like her words were loaded. Like we hadn't made those same jokes at the costume shop last week. It occurred to me that maybe we were having some kind of secret conversation. Like this wasn't about Dianna at all. "Look at her," I said. Dianna tugged on the back of her skirt as she swayed to the music, trying to keep her butt covered. I mean, Dianna was a pretty girl, and supercurvy. But her costume hugged in awkward places. It pinched around her arms and the zipper wrinkled up instead of lying flat down her back. She looked much prettier in her school uniform, I thought. "Does she look like she's having fun? Or does she look like she desperately wants some guy to pay attention to her?" Autumn wrinkled her nose. "Are you going to act like this the whole night?" "Act like what?" "Nothing. Whatever. I just want to have a good time." "Me too," I said. I didn't understand what was going on. Autumn practically tackled me when I walked in, and now she was trying to pick a fight with me over Dianna's costume. And then I noticed Connor Hughes, also in a prison outfit, watching Dianna dance. My heart dropped. A bunch of guys were sitting on top of a tall stack of floor mats. Bobby Doyle whispered something in Connor's ear, but whatever he said wasn't interesting enough for Connor to pull his eyes off Dianna. I wanted to look away, but I couldn't. Of course guys like Connor were going to notice the scantily clad girls dancing in front of them. I mean, how could they not? It was practically instinctive. Primordial. Immunity to booty and boobs did not occur in teenage boys. But I felt completely stupid for putting on lipstick tonight. It made me feel as desperate as Dianna and all the other girls. It made me hate myself for even trying. Because, really, I knew better. When the song ended, Dianna limped over to the bleachers, slipping off her very tall heels as she went. Connor's eyes moved off her and roamed around the gym. They stopped on me. I took a deep breath and looked past him at some invisible person in the crowd. I wanted his eyes to stay on me. Hold me, the same way they had held Dianna. But I only kept his attention for a second. Barely a second. In fact, I couldn't even be sure if he'd noticed me at all. It happened that quick. A terrible feeling formed in the pit of my stomach. Had I imagined things with Connor? I mean, yeah, we'd kissed, but he kissed girls all the time. Maybe it had been a dare. Or maybe I was a terrible kisser. I hated how I felt. Stupid. Insecure. Used. Another song came on. Everyone cheered. Autumn, too. "Come on, Natalie! Let's dance!" "I don't know this one." I reached for a napkin and rubbed at my lips. Autumn grabbed my hand. "Neither do I. But that doesn't mean we can't dance to it!" She started moving to the music, swinging my arm to the beat. It was almost more embarrassing than actually dancing. I pulled my hand free. "I think I'll just hang out here. The table's a little messy. Plus I feel bad about being late. I should help out." "Please!" Autumn begged, trying to grab my arm again. "Dance with me!" I took a step back and she got all frowny. "Come on. I don't want to leave you here standing all by yourself." "I'm fine," I told her. "Go ahead." Autumn gave me a look. She knew me too well. I wanted to tell her about the whole Connor thing, but I couldn't. Not with her in that weird costume. Not with some crappy rap song on full blast. "Whatever," Autumn snapped, picking up the fishtail train of her sequined dress and walking away. Marci Cooperstein was already out on the dance floor, dressed as some kind of go-go-dancing crayon. She was waving her hands for Autumn, and when Autumn ran over, they practically jumped into each other's arms. They started dancing, spinning each other around and doing some funny choreographed moves that they were clearly making up on the fly. I tried not to be jealous, but I was. I was bitterly jealous. I immediately busied myself, making sure all the snacks were out, that we had plenty of ice in the cooler. Over my shoulder, I heard the rest of the kids scream every time a new song came on. It made me feel so incredibly lonely. When I ran out of chores to occupy me, I
watched Spencer. Her moves were so smooth and confident, even if she looked totally ridiculous in her costume. She didn't just dance with one or two guys. She danced with the entire school--boys, girls. Everyone watched her, Connor included. I saw him. Despite my best efforts, every time I tried not to look at him, that's exactly where my eyes seemed to land. At a break between songs, Spencer headed over to the snack table, followed by her pack of friends. Her forehead sparkled with sweat. She reached for a can of Sprite from the cooler and held it to her cheek. Her friends went off to the bathroom, to check their hair and makeup. Spencer walked over to where I was standing and smiled at my costume. "You look so...classy," she decided, which made it seem even more wrong for the night. I tried to turn away from her, but I hit her with one of my wings. Spencer peered inside my cardboard plane and bit her lip, like she was debating whether or not to tell me something. "You know, Natalie, you have such a good body. Your butt looks totally hot in those pants. Why are you hiding it from everyone?" I didn't like the feeling of Spencer checking me out. It made me feel small, even though I was taller than her. "I'm not hiding anything." "Well why aren't you dancing? Do you need me to teach you a few quick moves in the hallway?" "I'm fine. But thanks." I sounded anything but thankful. "I seriously don't get you." Spencer twisted around and leaned against the table, pushing her boobs out. "You could get any guy in this room, if you just loosened up a little." "Thanks for the advice," I said, annoyed. Because I had the guy everyone wanted. Only I didn't anymore. "Looks like you've got Mike Domski tangled up in knots." She smiled. Smug. "Too easy." "Just be careful," I pleaded. But Spencer didn't hear me. She was already bouncing back to the dance floor. And what did she need to be careful about, really? She was having a fabulous time. She got the attention she wanted. And I had neither of those things. Connor walked across the gym toward where I was standing. Before I knew what I was really doing, I stepped out of my cardboard plane and kicked it underneath the table. And then I started fixing stuff that didn't really need to be fixed, just for something to do. I heard him come up behind me. It was almost too easy. "Hey, Sterling," he said. "You having fun?" I laughed. "Not as much fun as you. I've seen you drooling over every girl in the gym." "So you've been watching me?" He winked, all coy and cocky. My voice caught in my throat. "Don't flatter yourself." "Why are you so mean to me?" I said, "Because I don't trust you," which was true. And as much as I knew that, the rush I felt when I had Connor's attention still made me feel drunk. I was acting crazy, and I didn't think I could control myself. I didn't even want to try. He didn't say anything else, so I kept my back to him and dumped a bunch of M&Ms in a bowl. He reached for one almost immediately. At least, I thought that's what he was reaching for. But his hand stopped just short of the bowl. And when he opened it up, I saw a slip of paper in the center of his palm. I turned around to face him. "What's that?" I asked, even though I knew. I knew, but I couldn't believe it. "Nothing," he said, and that's when I smelled the beer on his breath. "Why don't you see for yourself?" "I'm not taking a dirty piece of paper out of your hand," I told him. "Sterling." He laughed at first. And then, when he saw I wasn't kidding, he groaned. I stared him down. How dare he groan at me! Like I was so impossible? His eyes were all sleepy and soft, but his cuteness could not dilute my anger. "Why don't you give this to one of the slutty girls you've been watching. Like, I don't know, Spencer. She had your number on her stupid Rosstitute shirt. I'm sure she'd be okay with fooling around with you tonight." "Just take it." I crossed my arms, so Connor put the paper inside my pocket. His hand warmed me like a hot little coal, and when he pulled it out and reached for some M&Ms, I was sure the whole bowl would melt. His smugness made my stomach flip over. "Here." I pulled the paper out of my pocket and tried to give it back. "I'm not interested." Connor stepped toward me. Since I didn't have my plane on, he could get really close. Close enough that I saw he'd shaved, and had a tiny cut right where his chin met his neck. Close enough that I could smell the plastic of his costume. He took my hand and folded it over his number, to make sure I held on to it. He did it just like a magician, sneaking a red foam ball into his hand for a trick. And then he walked away. I unfurled my hand and saw the paper. It was no trick. And I knew what had just happened. Things could have only gone so far when we were flirting in the hallway, or that night in the bathroom. But Connor had raised the stakes. Suddenly, it was my move, or game over. CHAPTER NINETEEN After the dance ended, it was the student council's job to make sure the decorations were taken down and the leftover food was cleaned up. Most of the students were already gone. Just a few people stuck around, and I was the only one really working. Coach Fallon led me around, pointing out all the stepped-on candy corns and sticky spots on his gym floor. I wanted so badly to tell him that it was his beloved athletes who had decided to throw candy at each other, whose bumping and grinding had sloshed the soda out of their cans. Not me. Not the girl who had to clean up everyone else's good time, like Cinderella. Autumn sat in the bleachers, talking to Marci and a few other girls. I was pissed that she wasn't helping clean up. The longer I had to stay here, the longer it would take before we could get back to my house. I was exhausted, and I could only imagine how tired Autumn felt. Once she'd left me to go dance with Marci, she hadn't stopped until the last song. She'd ignored me practically the whole night. After Connor left the dance, I kept touching the piece of paper in my pocket. Like I needed to make sure I hadn't dreamt the whole thing up. Because he walked right past me on his way out the door, without a second look. I guessed I really did embarrass him. "Hey," Autumn said, coming up behind me. "A bunch of people are going out to Bobby Doyle's house." "Yeah," I said. "So?" "So...I'm going to stop by there for a little while. Do you want to come?" "I thought you were sleeping over." I could hear the hurt in my voice. I hated it. "I still am. I'm just taking a slight detour first. For an hour, tops." It wasn't even an invitation. It was an ultimatum. I looked over her shoulder at Marci and the other girls. They watched the two of us, somewhat impatiently. I was obviously holding up their evening, only I didn't care. I wasn't going to make this easy for Autumn. So I turned and started walking away from her, toward the supply closet. Autumn followed, but slowly, like a child being dragged through a department store. "I don't get it," I said, once we were out of view of everyone else. "Marci Cooperstein was a complete bitch to you, and now you're ditching me for her to go to some party full of jerks who've made fun of you." Even if a part of me wanted to go, I couldn't. Connor was in all likelihood going to be there. I didn't want to make it seem like I was suddenly chasing after him, or whatever it was that Autumn was chasing after. "God, Natalie! It's just a party. And I'm not ditching you. I want you to come." Autumn dropped her head back. "Marci apologized, and I forgave her. It's over." I pulled open the supply closet and chucked the broom inside. "I'm going home," I told her. "You can do what you want." And that's exactly what Autumn did. Without even saying good-bye.

BOOK: siobhan vivian - not that kind of girl
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