Home > From Twinkle, with Love(3)

From Twinkle, with Love(3)
Author: Sandhya Menon


Tuesday, June 2

AP Economics

I was ambushed today.

Okay, so maybe “ambushed” is too strong a word. But I was definitely, in no uncertain terms, reminded of my groundling status.

I walked into the girls’ bathroom with Maddie at lunch, expecting to have a quiet chat. I’m not exactly sure why we walk together anymore. We don’t sit together at lunch since she left Camp Groundling. She sits with Hannah and Victoria and Francesca and all the other girls who aren’t on the lunch program. I sit in the back by myself. Well, maybe I do know why we still walk together. Maybe if we spend enough time together, I’ll figure out why she feels like I’m not BFF material anymore. And if I figure it out, maybe I can fix it.

Anyway, it’s not so bad, sitting in the back by myself. The only slight drawback is that I’m one table over from Brij Nath and Matthew Weir, both of whom slurp cafeteria chili and gargle it in the back of their throats as a joke. It’s just as horrifying (and oddly hypnotic) as it sounds.

They’re also computer geniuses who like to brag that they could “hack into this pathetic excuse for a secure network” anytime to change their grades. Except they don’t need to because their grades are already beyond an A. I think PPC had to invent a new grading system for them and Maddie. Oh, and there’s a rumor that Brij had to leave his last (expensive private boys’) school because he felt they were mismanaging their fundraiser money by putting in a third tennis court. So he hacked into their database and rerouted all the money to the Worldwide Fund for Nature. Which, naturally, earned him an expulsion.

Maddie and I pushed open the door to the girls’ bathroom on the third floor, and inside, instead of it being all quiet like it usually is, I found Hannah Macintosh and Francesca Roberts leaning over the sink, putting on mascara. My heart dropped to the floor.

“Heya!” Hannah said, running over to give Maddie a big hug without even glancing at me. She smelled like ripe plums, which suited her. Seriously, what dark arts do I have to do to smell and look good in everything? “Did you know this bathroom is always empty at lunch? Apparently people are too lazy to hike up here from the cafeteria!”

“I know! It’s, like, the best.” Maddie laughed and walked to the third—and last—sink and pulled out her makeup bag from her backpack.

I lounged against the wall and checked my fingernails. Mainly I did this because I’m too poor for my parents to get me a phone and I didn’t want to stare at them while they did their makeup. Also, I don’t wear makeup. I don’t have anything against it. I just don’t get it.

After a minute of Maddie, Francesca, and Hannah chattering about Hannah’s upcoming seventeenth birthday party and how she wanted a diamond bracelet (a conversation to which I could contribute nothing because, hello? Just imagining my parents’ faces if I asked for a diamond bracelet makes me want to burst out into maniacal laughter), Maddie caught my eye in the mirror. Recapping her mascara, she said, “Oh, hey. Twinkle saw this thing about diamonds on the History Channel.” Seeing my confused face, she continued. “Remember? Weren’t you telling me about that a couple weeks ago? I can’t recall exactly what you said, but …”

Oh. I got it. Maddie was trying to give me a conversational in. I straightened, ready for the challenge. “Oh, yeah. So, conflict diamonds are a real thing. The diamond industry estimates they make up to fifteen percent of the diamond trade and children are forced to work in extremely horrifying conditions to mine them. The toll on local communities is enormous. Not to mention the environmental devastation because of soil erosion …”

I trailed off when I saw Francesca and Hannah staring at me blankly, like I was speaking in Elvish. Maddie was sorta wince-smiling, like, Great. Good effort, Twinkle. A+. Now please stop talking.

After a slight pause, Francesca smiled and said, “Cool,” and then they went back to their conversation. I slumped against the wall, wishing I at least had to pee so I’d have something to do.

You know what? Scratch that. Hannah would probably just judge me on my pee splatter patterns or something.

After Hannah and Francesca hugged and air-kissed Maddie a million times (and invited her to walk with them instead, an invitation she dodged while darting nervous glances my way; YES, I HEARD THEM, MADDIE), we made our way to classes with about five minutes left.

I felt myself unwind as we walked, until my shoulders were shoulders again and not ear barricades. We rounded the corner and passed Patrick O’Cleary and Callum Truesdale (he of the Caveman Callum fame—more on that in a minute) who were saying:

Patrick: Dude, Midsummer Night’s on the twenty-seventh. We should definitely do that one idea we had last weekend.

Caveman Callum (CC): Oh, you mean how each of us could chop a different fruit onstage? Showcase our strength as swim-team studs?

Patrick: Yep. I’m gonna do a pineapple. Unpeeled.

CC: Dude. Epic. *fist bump and grunting follow*

Okay, Callum doesn’t grunt. And he isn’t a caveman (not technically, anyway). But he got his nickname because one time, in third grade, Maddie and I were playing on the jungle gym at recess when Callum came over and began to taunt us. He was saying stuff like how Maddie and I weren’t real Americans and how my parents were fresh off the boat.

And then he accidentally-on-purpose hit me with a basketball.

Maddie and I looked at each other, and in one coordinated move, we hopped off the jungle gym and walked over to Callum like we were in a music video. Maddie pinned his arms behind his back (he was pretty scrawny back then) and I kicked him in the shins until he howled. Guess what? He never bothered us again.

That was all cool. But my favorite part was when Maddie and I began to call each other sisters after that. And ever since, Callum’s been Caveman Callum. (To me, anyway. Maddie stopped calling him that when she stopped being a groundling. I hold grudges a lot longer. What can I say? I’m like a cat. They can hold grudges for ten years.)

I was staring at Maddie, wondering if she was thinking about the good old days like I was, when she grabbed my elbow and speed-walked me around the corner.

We passed by Sahil Roy, also apparently on his way to class. Huh. He was taller than I remembered, in a good way. And … better built, too. I briefly wondered how he looked in swim trunks.

“Ow,” I said when Maddie finally stopped rushing around like the Road Runner. “What are you doing?”

“Did you hear what Callum and Patrick were talking about?”

“You mean Caveman Callum?” I asked, and she rolled her eyes. “Um, what? Something about making fruit salad?” I waggled my fingers at Sahil, who was still looking at me.

And then he tripped over nothing that I could see. I looked away and pretended I hadn’t noticed. We groundlings have to watch out for each other.

Maddie sighed in this overexaggerated way. She forgets sometimes that we mere mortals don’t automatically assess a situation and then arrive at a conclusion at the speed of computers. “Maybe if you were less focused on calling him Caveman Callum and imagining him grunting, you’d hear the more important stuff. I’m talking about Midsummer Night being on the twenty-seventh.”

Principal Harris had reminded us about the Midsummer Night festival during morning announcements too. “Oh, yeah. What about it?”

“I have this genius idea.” Maddie’s eyes sparkled, and that’s when I knew I was in trouble. Not that she doesn’t have good ideas. Just that when she relies on me for execution, things generally don’t go as planned. Like when we tried to throw her dad, Mr. Tanaka, a black-tie forty-fifth birthday party two years ago. I was supposed to get a cake shaped like the Eiffel Tower, one of his favorite places in the world. Only I somehow picked up a cake meant for a bachelorette party and … well. Let’s just say the tower inside was not of the Eiffel variety. Mr. Tanaka nearly choked on his whiskey in front of eighty-five guests while I couldn’t stop staring at the cake and, in my shock, asked loudly, “Well, are we still going to eat it?” Total disaster.

I rallied my courage. “What’s your idea?”

“You should make a movie for Midsummer Night!”

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