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My Life On The Clearance Rack

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“Okay, you CAN NOT say no to those” my best friend Maya said. I looked down and sighed. They were a beautiful high heel shoe, with intricate detail on the side; not trashy, not boring. They fit me perfectly, and when I turned in the mirror, my legs looked elegantly flawless. “I dunno…their kind of expensive, don’t you think?” I flipped the price tag to make a point and flinched at the $199.00 written in red marker. Maya blew her bangs out with a sigh. “This is prom you have to buy them!” I shook my head, “No, Maya, I can’t.” Maya shrugged and plucked them from my feet. She tried them on and shamelessly lifted her dress to see her legs in the mirror. They looked great on her, too. But I loved them; they should be mine not hers. Maya grinned. She was my best friend, of course, but sometimes it was hard being a best friend with someone as perfect as her. She was a lacrosse player, which meant she had all the muscles in the right places, and the right curves, too. “Maybe I’ll buy them” she contemplated, and turned again. I scratched my thigh, hard. I couldn’t do it. I had to have them. “You know what, I think I want them.” I grabbed them back, shoved them into the box, and took out my credit card.


We walked down along Union Square, munching on pretzels. “That was a good deal, on the shoes” Maya said casually. I nodded; I still had a knot in my stomach from buying them. “So, you excited for prom? You haven’t been talking about it lately…” I shrugged. The truth was that my mom said I might not be able to go. The dress I wanted was too expensive and so was everything else. My mom had pulled out her high school prom dress and said I could wear that instead, and I burst into tears. We had been going through a money crisis. I was usually so used to spending money everywhere, anywhere. If I wanted, I got. But now mom had put me on a leash since dad lost his job at the law firm. The rich best friends I had all got what they want, and I couldn’t help feeling like a loser next to them. Especially Maya, she was my best friend since ever, and even she wouldn’t understand. Maya smiled at a guy in a plaid shirt and he smiled flirtatiously back. I sat down on the bench, watching the seller’s entrance the buyers. Manhattan people were so…vintage and cool. I wished I lived here like Maya did. Lucky I got to live in stupid Brooklyn. Already Maya had dated 3 college guys she met at cafes splattered across Manhattan, and her fashion took a great turn since infected by Manhattan-ers. “Well, I better get home” I said, but Maya moaned. “Come on, there’s this cute little diner, its Italian or something… they have the awesomest canoles.” I shook my head, it was probably expensive. She turned to me, her eyebrows drawn up in confusion, “What’s up with you Jane? You’ve been…dead these days.” I shook my head, feeling like I was going to cry. “I…I got to go.” I got up and walked briskly away, using the train because I couldn’t afford the stupid express bus.


When I got home, my mom and dad were seated at the dinner table, their faces immovable and hands curled around their coffee mugs. “Hey” I said, and made a dart up the stairs, but my dad said,”JANE!” I sighed and tried to throw my shoes off casually somewhere, and tossed them in the hallway. I sat down at the table, “Yeah?” I asked. My mom sighed, “Jane, I let you go hang out with Maya under one condition… and what was that condition?” I looked down, “Don’t spend over twenty dollars.” She nodded and pulled out a print out from CHASE BANK. I gulped, oh no… She arched an eyebrow and my dad started to speak. “Jane, your mother and I are busting our butts to save money, and you’re spending…” he took the paper from my mom and said, “Two hundred dollars on shoes? Are you crazy?” I clenched my jaw angrily. “That’s not fair! I’m just a teenager! Can’t I just get some fun? Maya has so much money…and she’s allowed to buy anything she wants!” My dad looked at me, his hardened expression becoming softer, “You and Maya are two different people, Jane, with two different problems.” I looked away, my chin trembling. When I got angry, I just started to cry. My mom looked away, because then she’d start crying too. “This is the last warning, Jane” my dad said. I flinched. Was that a threat? Or what? I stood up, almost knocking the chair back behind me. “OR WHAT? WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO? HUH?” my dad stood up to match me, and he was a lot taller, and scarier. But I stood my ground. “One more problem, even the slightest, and there is no prom for you, did you hear me?” I felt as if all the oxygen had been sucked out of me. “What—mom! You can’t make him do this!” my mom shook her head. She looked up at me, “Jane, you’re going overboard…this is the only way you’ll learn.” I sputtered crazily. “And I expect you to return those shoes and get all the cash back and give it to us. Understood?” my dad said. I nodded; still shocked that prom was on the line. “You can go now” he said, and sat back down. I ran from the room, crying and sobbing, not caring if I was shattering my dignity.


“Okay, manicures the day before prom, perms on prom, and dress fitting three days before? Oh, and are we still having that sleepover?” I looked down at my bed, “I’m sorry Maya, I can’t…” There was a silence on the other end of the phone. “No sleepover? Oh, okay, there’s always…” but before she could continue I said, “I can’t do any of that… any of it.” Maya was so quiet for so long I thought she’d hang up. But when I checked my phone, it said, CALL IN PROGRESS, “What do you mean? It was … apart…of our P.P.” I laughed dryly. P.P was something we’d made when we were little. It was the ‘Prom Plan,’ and we promised it would happen. “I can’t…Maya, I got in trouble for buying those shoes yesterday…they were too expensive… I have to return them tomorrow…” Maya was quiet. “Are you having problems at home, Jane?” Maya asked softly. Tears of shame burned in my eyes, “NO… I’m not a hobo…it was just… two hundred was too much for shoes…” Maya grunted in agreement. “Well, I’ll buy them off of you… bring them to school tomorrow, okay? But I got to go now, moms taking me out for ice cream! Love you!” I shut the phone off, burying my face into my pillow. I hated Maya just then. For taking everything I’ve ever wanted. She took my parents hearts at my 7th birthday party, and blew out the candles ‘by accident,’ she dated our awesome sub for History, when she knew I wanted him more. She took my spotlight when I was at my art show by coming in with her eccentric, fresh, clothes with ‘amazing style.’ Now she took my shoes, my beautiful, red heels that I adored so much. I opened my window and climbed out on the fire escape, curling my toes on the rusty metal. I could see everyone; they looked so small from up here. If Maya couldn’t take one thing, it was my spot. People glanced up at me every so often, and a couple of drunken guys waved, but I ignored them. On the trail of those guys followed a younger boy, a teenager. I thought he was drunk at first too, because he was carrying three pieces of chalk, banging them together so they broke. He glanced up at me and stared. I stared back, wondering if he was looking at me or something behind me. He tilted his head at me and sat down on the bench in front of the building, staring. I stared back, not thinking he would be dangerous. He took out a notebook and pen and wrote something down. I backed away, scared that he was a stalker or something… maybe he was writing down the dimensions of the building to see what apartment I was living in. I turned and leaped back into my room. My leap was on bad cue, though, because I crashed into my lamp and banged my head on the wall. I cracked my jaw and rubbed my head, walking unsteadily back to the window. I peered out. He was still there, staring at the window, but he put his notebook away. He arched his arm back, and with perfect precision, threw the red piece of chalk. It landed with a plunk in my plant on my fire escape. He glanced back once more and then walked away. I waited until he walked a whole block and crept out onto my fire escape. I picked up the chalk, curious. There were indents where his fingers had gripped it. I touched them softly and brought it back into my room and into my closet.


Even though I live in Brooklyn, I go to high school in Manhattan, which isn’t bad because my mom works in Manhattan anyways. She’s a secretary at some huge building, and she drives me every morning. We sat through silence, me listening to my iPod, her staring at the view in front of her. When we finally got to Thorn High School, I grabbed my bag and left. I heard her voice calling my name, but I ignored her. Maya was waiting outside with two cappuccinos. She handed me one and I accepted it gratefully. “How’s the grouchy parents?” she asked, and I rolled my eyes. She laughed and then said, “Can you hang out after school?” I took another sip and said, “Maybe, why, what are we doing today?” Maya measured how to say her next words and then said it, “Well, Courtney is dating this guy, Hen. Don’t ask why his names Hen. And she said he has a friend that would be perfect for you. And I could bring Jake, and we could triple date or something…” I shook my head, “Another blind date? Uh, no thanks.” Two years ago, Maya had set me up with this ‘awesome, great guy’ who I hated. He had a Mohawk with blue highlights, and kept talking about potatoes that looked like nation leaders. I almost died of boredom, and when I told Maya, she almost died of laughter. A week later, when I didn’t accept his calls or IM’s, he carved a potato of my face. I thought it was cool, but he was just…weird. Maya pouted, “Please? Pretty please?” I shook my head no.
Jake made his way into the yard and Maya perked up, straightening her posture. I rolled my eyes. Maya didn’t know it, but I hated Jake. I hated him so much. He was a flirt, a pervert, and made Maya feel like crap unless he wanted something out of it. He nodded at her and sat down on the bench with us. “Hey babe, you look nice“he said. Maya fluttered her eyelashes, “Thanks…are we still going with Courtney today?” Jake nodded, “Of course.” His brown eyes flickered to me and inspected me from my shoes to my face. When his eyes met mine, I locked them on his, hard. He smiled, “What’s wrong Jane? You look upset…” Maya talked before I could, “Oh, she doesn’t want to go on a blind date today…I don’t know why, he might be just what you like.” Jake smirked, “Well, there’s always room for one more, Jane, if you want to tag along with us” I felt my breath go hot. “I don’t want to go anywhere near you, Jake. I’d rather rot in hell.” He faked surprise, “Me? Why?” he said innocently. Maya looked surprised, angry, and insulted. “’Cause you’re--” I looked at Maya, who was looking like if I said something bad, it would ruin their relationship, and ours. “You’re just too great to hang out with, I’d feel stupid” I finished lamely. I grabbed my bag and stalked away, hating Maya just a little more.


“Jane, this guy is the guy for you! He’s sweet, funny; he’s a literature kind of guy! Come on!” Courtney whispered behind her science textbook. I gritted my teeth, “Court, I don’t want to go, okay?” she pounded her fists on the desk. “PLEASE! Hen would like me more if you liked his friend. Please. Do it for me, I don’t ask for much!” Uh, yeah right. She asked for a billion of things, and most of these things made me feel stupid, awkward, or just plain out weird. “Fine” I said and rolled my eyes. “THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU!” she squealed, and hugged me tight. I shrugged her off and turned away.


After school, Maya and Jake were leaning against the gate, his hands groping underneath her shirt and her letting him, kissing down his neck. It made me feel nasty just to look at them. “Get a room” I mumbled, and Jake leaped back, surprised. “Oh, it’s just you” he said, and went back to kissing Maya. I looked away. Maya was such a s**** sometimes. Courtney came out from the other way, with Hen. Hen had brown hair sticking up from every direction and light brown eyes, which, I would admit, were pretty. The only thing was that he was a druggie. A very big druggie, that is. Hen nodded at me and Maya, and did a stupid handshake with Jake. Then came my super blind date. He had blond hair that was shaggy; something I didn’t think would look nice, but actually did. He had green eyes and a sharp jaw. He was wearing a denim jacket and green shirt with blue jeans. I thought he looked kind of farmer-boy-ish, but still, not bad. “Wow, hello there” Maya said, and I felt a pain of anger shoot through me. What? Was she going to steal him, too? Wasn’t Jake enough? God. Courtney grinned, “Jane, this is Liam, Liam, this is Jane” I smiled awkwardly and he smiled.
We went to walk around, Liam glancing at me. “So, did your friends drag you along, too?” I laughed “Yeah how’d you know?” he shrugged, “People expect when someone says ‘he’s Hen’s friend’ that I’m a druggie… or messed up. But, truth is, Hen’s just my best friend.” I nodded, for some reason detecting something weird in his voice. Like anger. “Cool. So… Courtney told me you’re a literature guy?” I asked lightly. He nodded, “Yeah, I write…maybe you could hear it sometime.” I nodded impressively. Got a lot of confidence for a famer boy. “How ‘bout you?” I cracked my knuckles nervously, “Artist, I don’t think I’m any good though…” he sucked his teeth, “Cool.” Ahead of us, Hen had his arm around Courtney’s waist, smiling up at the sky, high as always. Jake, though, had his hand in Maya’s pants. The back of it, and I had a beautiful view from where I was standing. Ugh, gag. “You look upset…is Jake annoying you or something?” Liam asked. I shrugged, “He…I don’t know, he treats Maya like a tissue. He uses her and throws her away…” Liam nodded, watching Jake and Maya carefully. “Well, maybe some girls like to be used…” I thought this over. Was Maya ‘that kind of girl?’ Was she the girl we vowed each other we’d never become? Those desperate girls who just did whatever a guy wanted to stay with them? “But…Maya’s not like that.” He crinkled his nose, “I don’t know, it looks like she is.” Jake dipped his lips low to her ear, nuzzling on it and she laughed. “Ugh, such a…” was I just going to call my best friend a sl**? Oh my god. I had called Maya plenty of things before, but not sl**. “People change Jane…it happens all the time” as he said it, he was looking at Hen, like some faraway sadness was ringing in his throat. “Oh” I squeaked. But…how? Maya, the girl who would cradle me when Jimmy called me a ‘duck’ in 5th grade, the girl who guessed all the flavors of jellybeans right, blindfolded. The girl who traded pants with me because I had been gaining weight and the button popped. The girl who stood up for me when Mr. Greel said I wasn’t dedicated to his class. How did she become…this? I tried to look at her from someone else’s perspective. She was wearing tight light blue jeans, a tube top, showing her belly piercing she had got 2 weeks ago, and barking up on Jake like a tree. Suddenly I felt like I was going to puke. “Hey, Jane, are you alright?” Liam asked. I shook my head, my stomach rolling. “Want me to drive you home?” I nodded, not caring I barely knew him, I just wanted out.


“Well, thanks a lot, Liam” I said. He looked at me curiously. “You sure you’re going to be okay?” I nodded unsurely, “Yeah, I was just surprised… I hadn’t notice how different me and Maya are…until now.” He raised his eyebrows. “You’re a nice girl, Jane. So I’m just gonna tell you. Hen wanted me to meet you because he wanted to impress Courtney. He was supposed to bring someone else, but that dude was on a vacation. So he brought me. The only thing is… I’m gay.” My jaw dropped. I didn’t see that coming. “Oh. Really?” I asked. He nodded, smiling, “Yeah. Hen doesn’t know, though…so don’t mention it, please.” I wiggled my nose, “Does anyone else know?” I asked. He nodded fast, “Yeah. You, and all my other friends, my family…” “So why doesn’t Hen know?” I asked quickly. He laughed, “I can’t believe I’m going to tell you this” he mumbled, and looked away then back at me. “I’m in love with Hen. That’s why I protect him and watch him. He’s in deep with the drugs, so deep I can’t stop him. And he’s also in deep with Courtney. He says he loves her, but I don’t think he does. He’s taking so much meds, god, I don’t know what to believe… he says he’s blacked out most of the time. And once when I asked him how Courtney looked, he said he had no idea.” I stared at him. “Wow. That’s…wow.” He gulped, his Adams apple bobbing down his throat. “Yeah, just don’t tell, please? I’ll see ya… feel better.” I turned away and went upstairs.



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