Miss Popularity and the Dark Queen

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It started out on that sunny October day. My friend, Lisa, and I were talking in the halls.
“Just a regular school day, huh Emily?” she asked me.
“Well, for most of us…but not for Annie Bernard! I’ve never really met her, but I’ve figured out by now that she doesn’t have many friends.”
Sidestepping a teacher with her hands full, Lisa remarked, “Yah, I know what you mean. Robinson High School must be the busiest school on earth…” Then, noticing two bullies picking on a small boy in glasses, Lisa hastily moved past them and finished, “…sometimes even a jungle for misfits. At lunch yesterday I watched Annie eat alone on the cafeteria steps, and I noticed how withdrawn she is from the rest of us, eating her salad morosely – she’s a vegetarian, you know!”
I answered, “Yes, I know, and I saw her too. I can see she envies Carmen Jose’s group by the way she never took her eyes off them.”
Lisa suggested, “Maybe she was thinking of ways to get their attention – which will be pretty hard considering it’s our own Miss Popularity we’re dealing with, here.”
“Who knows?” We both shrugged and went on our way.
An hour later, as I was putting my books away in my locker, Carmen and her troupe were walking down the hallway, and I saw Annie gaze sadly after them.
Just when I thought she was going to let them pass, Annie cried, “Wait!” and ran after them. They turned, surprised, and she continued shyly, “D-do you wanna sit with me at lunch? I always have a few empty seats.”
Carmen sized her up and then led her group through the nearest door, leaving Annie standing behind her looking embarrassed and miserable. Curious, as I am notorious for being, I observed her on the bus as she stared out the bright window.
She questioned her companion, “What are you doing today? Nothing important, I suppose.” I started in my seat right behind her, for Carmen had used those exact words earlier.
Before the girl next to her could respond, Annie cut, “The only thing worth doing in the whole world is shopping…anything else is stupid,” – another familiar line.
Insulted, the other girl turned away and didn’t speak for the rest of the ride. I wondered why Annie was quoting Carmen, especially when most of us didn’t usually hang on her every word.
The next Monday I walked into French class and saw that Carmen and Annie Bernard, sitting opposite the other, were matching! How this had happened I had no idea, but Carmen was obviously annoyed with her “shadow”, and she gave her a dark look before passing a note to her friends. Later, while I ate a chicken sandwich, I noticed Annie, eating her usual salad, approach the Popular Group.
“Hey guys!” she started tensely. “Umm, mind if I try some of your chicken casserole?”
“Uh, no.” Carmen said rudely, raising an eyebrow. “Get in the cafeteria line if you want some.”
So Annie did – and ended up with a fever a few minutes later. She knew she wasn’t used to meat, but just because Carmen ate it, she tried it anyway. It was then that I realized Annie was taking her admiration too far, but I continued watching instead of talking to her.

Every day since then I saw Annie follow Carmen around like a dog, pestering her with sudden questions, and copying her answers in class. One day, Carmen found out herself, and blurted out to the teacher, “Mrs. Goya! Annie’s copying my test answers!”
After that, missed school days followed for Annie, who seemed strangely oblivious to it all just because her idol had remembered her name, walking around murmuring to herself, “Annie, Annie. She knows my name! Me, my name!”
The next week I asked to come over to her house, unprepared for what followed. It happened like this.
We were in Annie’s cluttered room, sitting on the floor, when she whispered, “Emily, you can’t tell my parents, but…I’m bustin’ out.” When I asked her what she meant, she replied, “There’s a party at Michael’s tonight, and…well…Carmen’s gonna be there, so I’m going too. You stay here.” Not wanting to go anyway, I readily agreed, and stayed in her room for the next couple of hours, assuming any minute she would be back, climbing in the window the way she had left. What a fool I was. If only I had known….
After a while, I became worried, and I eventually told Mr. and Mrs. Bernard the situation, which of course sent them immediately to the telephone. At that exact moment, as the mother picked up the receiver, I heard the door creak open.
“Annie?” Mr. Bernard called, and he went quickly over to her. There she was, just as I had known but not let myself believe she would be all along – her jacket was slumped across her shoulders, her hair wild, leaning precariously on the doorknob. Her father carefully carried her up to bed, and thus ended my stay.
All through Annie’s counselor meetings, her fights behind closed doors, and days in detention, my friends and I began to realize that Annie had become a totally different person. Instead of sitting in a corner, she would now sit with Carmen’s girls, and act as if she was one of them. They all had come to ignore her presence, seeing no other way to solve the problem. And every day, just as the bell was about to ring for classes, Annie would slip out her small camera and secretively take dozens of photos of Carmen. During the only other time I visited Annie, I saw them strung up on the walls, on a message board, lying on her bed, and even in a scrapbook. It was plain to see that her idol was taking over her life.
One particularly cold November day, the last time I would see Annie at Robinson High, Carmen snapped at her, “Look, can’t you just leave me alone? We’re not friends; and you’re just plain annoying!” But instead of disheartening her, this remark only encouraged her all the more. Annie seemed to turn every negative word Carmen spoke to her into a word of kindness or friendship. No one denied that she was odd, and none dared to talk to her, for fear of their reputation. That weekend served as a wake-up call for the disillusioned girl.
The Saturday started out light and breezy, but by evening it was bitterly cold. As I passed Carmen’s huge house on a jog, I was shocked to see Annie Bernard standing under Carmen’s window. Wondering what she was doing there, I stood under a nearby tree and watched her. Suddenly, I heard sirens getting nearer and nearer. Horrified, I saw a police car pull into our street, park in front of Carmen’s garage, and two officers jump out. Mrs. Jose opened the door and pointed to her side yard.
“There she is, officers,” she said almost inaudibly, and they approached the intruder.
One said, “Hands together, young lady,” and the other quickly handcuffed her and led her to the car.
“Hey, hey, what’s going on?” Annie protested.
The man told her, “You’re under arrest for charge of stalking.”
“What?! I just, I just…” But before she could finish, Carmen was striding toward her, very angry.
“Don’t you understand?! I hate the way you talk like me, the way you dress like me, how you’re always following me, and how you never leave me alone!” The last phrase she spit out with force, and Annie was put into the car, and driven away. She had finally learned her lesson – that too much of Carmen was just too much.





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