Passing Debra’s room, we heard the sounds of sobs. I knocked and twisted the knob. “Juicy” and “Pink” were spelled across the the bed. The sisters sat up and Debra said, “You can come in.”
“I wanted to say goodbye, you guys,” I said.
“You can’t go!” That felt really nice. It could have gone the other way.
“Harry asked me to come live with him,” I said.
“Oh, my, God,” said Donna.
“He’s my godfather,” I said, not wanting to elaborate.
“Is Jeff still here?” Debra asked.
“I’m right here,” Jeff said, sticking his head in behind me. “Hi.”
The girls stiffened, and then Debra said, “We have something to ask you.”
“Ask away,” Jeff said.
“Okay, we know we’re not popular,” said Debra.
“And we know our mom meant well,” said Donna.
“But why? Why not?” said Debra. “We’re cheerleaders, we wear cute clothes, we have hot bods, we have all the latest stuff, we’re friendly and outgoing.”
“We try so hard,” said Debra.
“Maybe because you try too hard,” said Jeff.
“Oh,” they both said, surprised.
“I mean, remember that time you texted me your boobs? Why would you DO that?”
“Um,” said Debra. “I noticed you were looking at them.”
“Well, you were sort of showing them off in that low cut, cropped sweater with the horizontal stripes,” he replied.
“And they were brand new,” said Debra, gazing down at her breasts. “My 18th birthday present. No one said anything.”
“I’m sorry,” said Jeff. “I should have commented. How rude of me.”
“Can you give us any advice?” Donna said. “I mean, in spite of our, our everything, we really have a hard time meeting the right people.”
“Um, maybe,” said Jeff, reaching for my hand, “we could double, I mean, triple date sometime. I have some friends….”
“That would be awesome,” said Donna, her eyes twinkling with excitement.
Debra eyed our hands. “Are you two… together?” We looked at each other, we looked at her, we nodded.
“Then who was that girl….?” Donna looked puzzled. Then Debra got it and she elbowed her sister. They looked at each other wide-eyed, then looked at us again, differently this time.
“Was it you?” Debra asked. We nodded.
“No! WAY!” Donna said. The two of them looked so conflicted, remembering how they treated me last night before they left, remembering their frustration when Jeff chose me, remembering the approval of the crowd and realizing my newfound and immense popularity. Disdain, anger, and admiration flickered over their faces and finally they settled on a feeling. I was glad it was wonder, and approval. The social significance of the event dawned on them much quicker than it did me.
“Oh, my, God,” said Debra. “Our stepsister is the most popular girl in the school!” They hugged each other to celebrate this new victory. Their words sunk in to me and I started to wonder what Monday would be like. I would be rocketed into a new life—if the rest of the student body ever put two and two together—which they would if Jeff ever walked me to class and… Jeff squeezed my hand, as if to reassure me that it would be all right. (It was. Nevada, as it turned out, would show me the ropes and protect me, allowing me to keep my nerdy AP friends and be my introverted self while handling all the stares….)
And there would be my stepsisters. Who, even though my father was gone and we no longer had a legal relationship, would always be my special somethings. Suddenly it struck me the difference between the two of them and me: they had only ever had Sylvia for a mom.
“Do you have something I could write on?” I asked, reaching for Debra's diary, which she kept on a shelf above her bed. I flipped it open to find a blank page—and of course, there were plenty—and jotted some notes down. “For later, when you don't know what to do,” I said.
Debra reached up and grabbed something else from the shelf. “Here. Before you go, Ashley. I want you to have this.” She pulled down a six-inch glass Pegasus with a thick, graceful, arched neck, whose wings stretched forwards as if to gather speed, and whose muscled hindquarters were gathered as if she were about to explode free of the glass base.
“Thank you so much,” I said, hugging her. “You don't know what this means to me.”
Her expression grew as clear as I'd ever seen it. “Actually, I do,” she said.
“You can have my glass unicorn,” I told her. “They lay their horns in the laps of virgins.” She made a face to her sister like I was crazy. “And the pure of heart,” I added. “Plus,” I said, as Jeff and I turned to leave the room, “they can heal anything.”