Any Other GirlBy: Rebecca Phillips
“Do you play, too?” Emmett asked, sounding shocked that I knew my way around the game.
“I used to. Years ago.”
“Wow, I never would’ve guessed. I mean, you’re so . . .” He gestured to my light pink maxi dress, neatly curled hair, and glossy pink lipstick, struggling for an adjective that wouldn’t offend me.
“Girly? Dainty? Out of shape?”
“The first two.” He appraised me again with renewed interest. “Why did you stop? Playing, I mean.”
I shrugged and looked away, the universal signal for Not even worth discussing. I didn’t like to admit it, to myself especially, that I’d stopped playing because of some stupid, ignorant comments made by a couple of gossipy soccer moms who didn’t even know me. I’d not only quit sports, but changed my entire image on top of it, all because I wanted people to stop assuming I was somehow maladjusted and in need of female guidance. No, I’d much rather Emmett get to know me as I really was—someone who’d been raised by two men but was just like any other girl. Only with a different type of family from most people.
I didn’t set out to flirt with someone else’s boyfriend at Miranda Lipton’s party. But I did it like I did a lot of things—without even thinking about it, as spontaneous and subconscious as breathing. The incident itself probably would’ve gone virtually unnoticed if the boyfriend in question had been anyone other than Braden Myers, and if the “someone else” had been anyone other than my best friend.
“I’m gonna miss you,” Shay said, squeezing me into an impulsive, coconut-scented hug. We were standing in Miranda’s main floor bathroom, primping in front of the mirror above the double sinks. Our second-to-last week of school had ended just three hours before, and since then we’d hit Starbucks for Frappuccinos, gorged on deep-dish pizza at Mario’s, and then walked to Miranda’s house in the warm June sun to help her set up for tonight’s party. Most of the junior class planned to end up there tonight, eager to take a one-night break from studying and blow off some steam before final exams started on Monday. But for now, it was just us girls.
“I’ll miss you too,” I said, hugging her back. “It’s just for a couple months, you know. I’ll be back before school starts again.”
“I know.” She pulled back and took a swig from her bottle of vodka cooler, one of several currently sitting in the fridge. Miranda’s parents had left this morning for an out-of-town wedding. “Summer’s boring without you around, though.”
I laughed and sipped at my own cooler. Shay had said the same thing last summer and the summer before that. She always acted sentimental in the week or so before my parents and I left to spend the season at our cottage on the lake. We had been best friends for only two years, but we’d been inseparable since the day we’d met in the spring of freshman year when we both turned up in Mrs. Lockhart’s after-school study group for math. There, we’d bonded over our mutual failure to comprehend polynomials.
“What do you think?” I stepped back from the mirror and turned from side to side, inspecting myself from each angle. I didn’t have much of a tan yet, so my white off-the-shoulder dress didn’t set off my skin tone as much as I’d hoped. “Does this make me look washed out?”
Shay glanced at me through the mirror as she brushed her glossy black hair. “You look like Marilyn Monroe with those fake eyelashes on. Only you’re thinner. And not blond.”
I smiled, pleased. Seven Year Itch was one of the first classic movies I’d ever seen, and I often went for the Marilyn look—wavy hair, parted on the left. Curve-hugging dress. Thick eyelashes. I liked to stand out.
“My God, Kat,” Cassidy Boveri said when Shay and I joined her and Miranda in the kitchen. “This isn’t a nightclub.”
I just laughed and slid up on the counter, bare legs dangling off the edge. Cassidy used to bother me back in freshman year when my reputation made me basically friendless, but all that changed when I started hanging around with Shay. Everyone liked her, which meant they had to like me, too. Or at least tolerate me like Cassidy tried to do, even though it pained her. She still hadn’t let go of the grudge she’d been holding against me since the eighth grade when her boyfriend dumped her at the Halloween dance so he could start going out with me.