THE THING ABOUT BIRTHDAYS, especially if you just that very day turned twelve, is that you should make a point of trying to look good. Because twelve is almost thirteen, and thirteen is a teenager, and teenagers don’t strut around with holes in their jeans and ketchup on their shirts.
Well. They did if they were my sister, Sandra, who was fifteen-about-to-turn-sixteen. Her birthday comes next month, which meant that for a delightful three-and-a-half-week period beginning today, she was only three years older than me, instead of four. Yes!
Sandra made a show of not caring about her appearance, although it was clear she secretly did. She stayed in the bathroom far longer than any human needed to, and I knew she was in there staring and staring and staring at herself in the mirror: putting on eyeliner and then wiping all but the barest trace of it off; dabbing on the tiniest smidge of Sun Kissed Cheek Stain from the Body Shop; making eyes at herself and dreaming about Bo, her boyfriend, who told her he liked her just the way she was—natural. So ha ha, the trick was on Bo, but I’ve learned from Sandra that boys were often like that: clueless, but not necessarily in a bad way. When I am fifteen, I’ll probably have a boyfriend, and I’ll probably be just like Sandra. I’ll want to look pretty, but not like I’m trying.
But today was my birthday, not Sandra’s, and I felt like pulling out all the stops. Dressing up usually felt dumb to me—I left that to snooty Gail Grayson and the other sixthgradego-go girls—but I had a tingly special-day feeling inside. Plus, we were leaving in half an hour for my fancy birthday dinner at Benihana’s. Bo was going to meet us there, and so was Dinah, my new best friend. Although it still felt weird calling her that.
I tugged my lemon yellow ballerina skirt from the clippy things on the hanger and wrapped it around my waist. I threaded one tie through the hole at the side, then swoopedit around and knotted it in place. When Mom bought this skirt for me six months ago, she had to show me how to make it work, and I’d found it impossibly complicated. Not anymore.
A full-length mirror hung on the inside of my closet door, and I twirled in front of it and watched the fabric swish around my knees. I had scabs from Rollerblading and a scrape from exploring a sewage pipe, but who cared? I could be beautiful and tough. I refused to buff away the calluses on my feet, too. Mom said a girl’s feet should be soft, but I said, “Uh, no.” I was proud of my calluses. I’d worked hard for them. Summer was right around the corner, and I wasn’t about to wince my way across the hot concrete when I went to the neighborhood pool. Flip-flops were for wimps. For me, it’s barefoot all the way.
I rifled through my clothes until I found my black tank top. Sleek and sophisticated—yeah. People would think I was from New York instead of Atlanta. But when I wiggled into it, I realized something was wrong. It was tight—as in, really
tight. I flexed my shoulder blades forward and then backward, trying to loosen things up. Then forward and backward again. But what I saw in the mirror was bad. With my herky-jerky shoulders, I looked like a chicken. Withbreasts.
“Mo-o-om!” I called. “We’ve got a problem!”
Copyright © 2007 by Lauren Myracle. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.