“Mom won’t stop bugging me,” Emilie muttered to me on our way from lunch. Just as I’d hoped, she’d barely touched her food. “Like, she never used to ask me much about school and stuff, and now she comes at me with like a clipboard and a list every time I go home.”
“Hmm, weird. Hey, I know this is random, but could I borrow your brown purse tomorrow? I have an interview for a nanny job, and I don’t want them to think I’m... you know, poor and desperate.” Emilie bit her lip, glancing at my ratty backpack. That purse was everything to her, so just the fact that she was thinking about letting me borrow it was a big deal.
She must’ve decided that our friendship was important enough to sacrifice having the purse with her at all times because she nodded slowly.
I smiled wide, trying to show my appreciation. “Thanks so much. You’re a lifesaver.”
“What are you going to wear?”
I shrugged. “I don’t know. I have my dress pants, but I don’t really have any shoes to wear with it.” Emilie looked me up and down, a determination coming over her face. “Okay, why don’t you come over today and we’ll find some stuff for you?”
At her house, we went over outfits, and even though I had no intention of going to an interview, I couldn’t help admiring every piece of clothing Emilie held up for me to try. I was used to my black or grey Goodwill finds, not these new, barely worn, fashionable pieces.
I pretended to be indecisive, and Emilie let me take two different outfits, along with her prized purse. She got a call right as we were finishing up, so I told her I’d take the clothes down to load in the car.
Mrs. Young was in the kitchen. I flopped the clothes down on the counter next to her.
“She told me I could have all of this,” I whispered.
Mrs. Young’s eyes grew wide, traveling over the clothes and landing on the purse. “That’s her favorite purse. She wouldn’t let me touch it the first month she had it.”
I nodded. “She seemed pretty broken up. She was like, take whatever you want, and handed me the purse first.”
“What should I do, Jodi?” Mrs. Young’s voice was low but started to get hysterical. “I researched this, and giving things away is a big sign of suicidal tendencies. And she barely eats.”
“Maybe she needs to see a therapist.”
“I don’t think she’d go for that, but you might be right.”
Just then, Emilie walked down the stairs, head hanging. “Mark Fletcherson invited me to homecoming. I laughed at him before I thought it through. Now I have nobody to go with. What am I going to do? How can I be homecoming queen like this?” Her voice rose dramatically, and I exchanged worried looks with Mrs. Young.
The last part of my plan was simple, but I my hands were still shaking as I arrived at homecoming. Thanks to my appearance at the popular table at lunch, I’d had a couple guys ask me to go with them, but like Emilie, I rejected them both. Unlike her, I wanted to be alone.
I’d barely stepped inside when I got a text from her.
Can I walk in with you? I can’t do this alone.
I walked back out and waited for the white Lincoln. Emilie stepped out, ravishing in a white evening dress, but her face was twisted in an attempt to keep from crying or yelling, or both.
She grabbed my arm and squeezed it. “I’m so glad you’re here. You’re my only friend, Jodi.”
Not for long.
We entered the dark, loud gym, and every face turned toward us. The disgust and contempt was normal for me, but Emilie shrunk back from the stares.
“Come on.” I dragged her to a table.
People danced around us, and I saw Summer twirling with one of the hot guys. I didn’t see Alysha and Liam yet.
“I want to go home,” Emilie whimpered.
“Stop it. You’re a HQ nominee.”
“I won’t get it anyway.”
We stood by the tables for another song or two until Alysha entered on Liam’s arm. She wore a silver gown with a slit going so far up her leg, it left little room for the imagination. She smiled and kissed Liam on the cheek. He whispered something in her ear.
Emilie groaned. “I can’t do this.” She was practically hyperventilating. “How could— she take—my—crush...”
From the speakers, we heard them getting ready to announce homecoming court.
“And our nominees for homecoming queen this year are... Summer Sanders.”
The cheers were deafening. Summer waved with a glamorous smile.
I hadn’t expected applause, but the boos startled me. It was as if the entire school had turned against Emilie. Jeering smiles and angry looks flew toward her, and that was all it took.
Emilie turned and ran.
I followed close behind.
She pulled out her phone and stumbled in the hall.
“Mom. Come and get me. I can’t stay here.”
Her voice came out in a sob, and she dropped her phone and buried her face in her hands.
I snatched it up and typed a text to her mom.
Too late. Can’t do this anymore. I love you. Goodbye.
A second later my phone rang, Mrs. Young’s name flashing on the screen.
“Jodi! Are you with Emilie? I just got a text from her. I thinks she’s about to—”
“I think you should call 911.” I stepped away from Emilie so she couldn’t hear me. “They can get here faster than you. I’ll look for her.”
“Thank you so much. I will. Please don’t let my baby—”
I hung up and ran back to Emilie.
“I can’t believe we were ever friends,” I told her, forcing my face into a scowl.
“What?” She lifted her head, her eyeshadow smudging all over her face.
“Look at you. You went from the most popular girl in the school to the one everyone hates. I thought you were different, but I guess not.”
“Don’t say that.” Emilie’s face was a mixture of shock and pleading. “You’re all I got.”
“Not anymore.” I shook my head, walking away from her.
“What did I do to you?” she screeched. “What’s wrong with me?”
I hurried to the door of the gym, waiting to hear the sound of sirens. Maybe it was the adrenaline, but my heart was pounding, and I felt scared. Had I taken this too far?
Sure enough, the sirens came, followed by the flashing lights of the cop cars.
I arranged my face and ran toward them breathing hard.
“She’s in there! In the hall! She was trying to run away!”
The cops ran past me, and I melted into the crowd in the gym. Summer was gloating in her new crown, and Alysha and Liam were making out in a corner. Few people had noticed the cops.
It didn’t take long, though.
Two of them walked out, escorting the sobbing, resisting Emilie.
“What did I do? Why are you here? Where are you taking me?”
Everyone stopped and stared.
And that was when it hit me.
I’d wanted to hurt Emilie, just a little. For once, I’d wanted her to feel the way I did.
Staring at her now, I couldn’t imagine how she felt.
Alone? For sure.
I hadn’t hurt her a little. I’d ruined her entire reputation. Forever.
What had I done?