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COILED: Chapter 1

My stars were all lined up, before I was even born.  My life was gonna be perfect.  But then God must’ve tripped and kicked my stars around or something, ‘cause they skidded out of order and crashed down hard from the sky.  And then they just stayed that way, splintered and scrambled, with most of the shine knocked out of them.

It all started when the first star in line burned out.  My father.  And he really was a star, no joke.  At least in the weird, classical music world, he was.  So if my father was still around?  I’d be a popular girl.  I mean, I’d be semi-famous!  That’s why it makes zero sense that I stand alone for every recess of my whole sixth grade life, praying that the actual popular girls don’t notice me.

Believe it or not, though, my recess problems are just a teeny piece of a whole big pie.  My real problem is that I have nobody to talk to in general.  So I guess I’ll talk to you.  I mean, you seem like you’ll understand some of this.  Just, you know.  Don’t tell my sister Kim, okay?  I don’t want her thinking I’m more of a loser than she already does.

If you know how perfect she is, you’ve already guessed this: Kim gets everything.  And now she’s got her own room!  They made it by building this divider across the back of the living room.  Her room’s as wide as a rowboat and only a little bit longer, but it’s hers.  She can shut the door and put on a record, like Get the Knack, which I gave her for Christmas.  Except I never hear her play that one.  The one she really never plays is American Graffiti, which is a double album you fold open to see the back of this roller-skate waitress, from head to wheel.  She looks over her shoulder at you with the nicest smile.  Her legs are so shiny, and they’re as long as the whole second album cover.  Someday I’m gonna be a roller-waitress.  Watch.

I spend a lot of time in Kim’s room when she’s not home—but lucky for me, she’s never home.  She’s always out with some boy who loves her, because she’s skinny and beautiful.  Kim’s real boyfriend is J.C.  He has big shoulders and a rich dad, plus a fresh-paint Honda and some stubble on his cheeks.  He’s pretty much perfect.  For their tenth-grade dance, he wore a white tux with a purple cummerbund to match Kim’s dress.  And still, she spends afternoons with other boys when J.C.’s at work.  They pull up in front next to the pebbly grey wall, just past where I’m sitting and waiting for them.  I pretend that the bumps and circles of the wall, dirt-chilled under my hand, are jewels in the crown I’ll wear later, to the prom.

If she’s not already on the front step waiting, the boy honks and Kim runs out, slamming the door behind her.  She seems to fly across the front lawn and into the boy’s car.  I never get to see their faces as they drive away, so I don’t know if they’re laughing at me or what.  But I can see the car all the way until it turns to go down to Hope Street.  I wonder what they talk about, Kim and the boys who love her.  I never know what to talk about with people.

When she’s not out with boys, Kim’s working at the dry cleaners.  She’s still only fifteen, but she’s so pretty they let her work there, anyway.  And good thing, because she needs a lot of money for designer jeans.  She has five pairs already!  When I know she won’t be home for a while, I try them on and look at myself in the mirror over her dresser.  Here’s the major diff between me and Kim: even though she’s fifteen and I’m eleven, I’m the one with the bigger pants-size.  So most of the time her jeans don’t fit me.  But man, when they do!  I turn around and look back at the mirror like the roller-waitress does, my butt flat in tight, shovel-shaped Jordache pockets and think, God, could I ever be as pretty as Kim?