Lissa reached over and turned up the radio, filling the room with some boppy song with a la-la-la chorus. I walked over to my closet, pulling open the door to examine my options.
“So what do you wear to dump somebody?” she asked me, twirling a lock of hair around one finger. “Black, for mourning? Or something cheerful and colorful, to distract them from their pain? Or maybe you wear some sort of camouflage, something that will help you disappear quickly in case they don’t take it well.”
“Personally,” I told her, pulling out a pair of black pants and turning them in my hands, “I’m thinking dark and slimming, a bit of cleavage. And clean underwear.”
“You wear that every night.”
“This is every night,” I replied. I knew I had a clean red shirt I liked somewhere in my closet, but I couldn’t find it in the shirt section. Which meant somebody had been in there, picking around. I kept my closet the way I kept everything: neat and tidy. My mother’s house was usually in chaos, so my room had always been the only place I could keep the way I chose. Which was in order, perfectly organized, everything where I could easily find it. Okay, so maybe I was a little obsessive. But so what? At least I wasn’t a slob.
“Not for Jonathan,” she said, and when I glanced at her she added, “I mean, this is a big night for him. He’s getting dumped. And he doesn’t even know it yet. He’s probably eating a cheese-burger or flossing or picking up his dry cleaning, and he has no idea. No inkling.”
I gave up on the red shirt, pulling out a tank top instead. I didn’t even know what to say to her. Yes, it sucked getting dumped. But wasn’t it better to just be brutally honest? To admit that your feeling for someone is never going to be powerful enough to justify taking up any more of their time? I was doing him a favor, really. Freeing him up for a better opportunity. In fact, I was a practically a saint, if you really thought about it.
A half hour later, when we pulled up to the Quik Zip, Jess was waiting for us. As usual, Chloe was late.
“Hey,” I said, walking over to her. She was leaning against her big tank of a car, an old Chevy with a sagging bumper, and sucking on an Extra Large Zip Coke, our drug of choice. They were the best bargain in town, at $1.59, and served a multitude of uses.
“I’m getting Skittles,” Lissa called out, slamming her door. “Anybody want anything?”
“Zip Diet,” I told her, and reached for my money, but she shook me off, already heading inside. “Extra large!”
She nodded as the door swung shut behind her. She even walked perkily, hands jauntily in her pockets as she headed for the candy aisle. Lissa’s sweet tooth was infamous: she was the only person I knew who could discern between Raisinets and chocolate-covered raisins. There was a difference.
“Where’s Chloe?” I asked Jess, but she just shrugged, not even taking her lips off the straw of her Zip Coke. “Did we not say seven-thirty sharp?”
She raised an eyebrow at me. “Calm down, anal retentive,” she said, shaking her drink. The ice rattled around, sloshing in what was left of the liquid. “It’s just six right now.”
I sighed, leaning back against her car. I hated when people were late. But Chloe always ran five minutes behind, on a good day. Lissa was usually early, and Jess was Jess: solid as a rock, there right on the dot. She’d been my best friend since the fifth grade, and was the only one I knew I could always depend on.
We’d met because our desks sat side by side, per Mrs. Douglas’s alphabet system. Mike Schemen the nose picker, then Jess, then me, with Adam Struck, who had bad adenoids, on my other side. It was practically required that we be best friends, seeing as we were surrounded by the booger twins.
Jess was big, even then. She wasn’t fat, exactly, just like she wasn’t fat now. More just large, big-boned, tall and wide. Thick. Back then, she was larger than any of the boys in our class, brutal at dodgeball, able to hit you hard enough with one of those red medicine balls before school that it left a mark that lasted through final bell. A lot of people thought Jess was mean, but they were wrong. They didn’t know what I knew: that her mom had died that summer, leaving her to raise two little brothers while her dad worked full-time at the power plant. That money was always tight, and Jess didn’t get to be a kid anymore.
And eight years later, after making it through some hellish middle school and decent high school years, we were still close. Mostly because I did know these things about her, and Jess still kept most stuff to herself. But also because she was one of the only people who just didn’t take my shit, and I had to respect that.
“Looky look,” she said now in her flat voice, crossing her arms over her chest. “The queen has arrived.”
Chloe pulled up beside us, cutting the engine on her Mercedes and flipping down the visor to check her lipstick. Jess sighed, loudly, but I ignored her. This was old news, her and Chloe, like background music. Only if things were really quiet or dull did the rest of us even notice it anymore.
Chloe got out, slamming her door, and came over to us. She looked great, as usual: black pants, blue shirt, cool jacket I hadn’t seen before. Her mom was a flight attendant and a compulsive shopper, a deadly combination that resulted in Chloe always having the newest stuff from the best places. Our little trendsetter.
“Hey,” she said, tucking her hair behind her ear. “Where’s Lissa?”
I nodded toward the Quik Zip, where Lissa was now at the counter, chatting up the guy behind the counter as he rang up her candy. We watched as she waved good-bye to him and came out, a bag of Skittles already opened in one hand. “Who wants one?” she called out, smiling as she saw Chloe. “Hey! God, great jacket.”
“Thanks,” Chloe said, brushing her fingers over it. “It’s new.”
“Is that surprising?” Jess said sarcastically.
“Is that diet?” Chloe shot back, eyeing the drink in Jess’s hand.
“All right, all right,” I said, waving my hand between them. Lissa handed me my Zip Diet, and I took a big sip, savoring the taste. It was the nectar of the gods. Truly. “What’s the plan?”
“I have to meet Adam at Double Burger at six-thirty,” Lissa said, popping another Skittle into her mouth. “Then we’ll catch up with you guys at Bendo or whatever.”
“Who’s at Bendo?” Chloe asked, jangling her keys.
“Don’t know,” Lissa said. “Some band. There’s also a party we can go to in the Arbors, Matthew Ridgefield has a keg somewhere and, oh, and Remy has to dump Jonathan.”