When Mom caught me walking home alone one day, I assured her it was fine, that Angelica and Natalie had to stay after for talking in one of their classes, but that I was being alert and felt comfortable walking home alone. Even outside the gate, it was a decent neighborhood.
So the fall went okay. I even got invited to a Halloween party one of the kids in my art classes was having. My Dad checked out the address and nixed my going there at night, but at least I was asked.
After that invitation, my parents started investigating private schools for me and Rose. We’d been in public school in our small town, where everyone knew everyone, regardless of family income or which side of the tracks you lived. I’d never really thought about it, how it was only kids my parents approved of that I’d spent time with back home. There was this one girl in my Scout troop who wore the same clothes every day and we didn’t make fun of her because we knew she didn’t have any others and that the nurse washed them regularly while the girl wore a donated gym suit. But I don’t know anyone who ever went to that girl’s house.
So the city was different in a lot of ways—and regardless of my Inparents’ belief it was a small town, we were part of the metropolis. I didn’t notice anyone wearing exactly the same clothes every day, but some of the boys would when they’d been out all night partying. They talked about it right in front of the teachers, so I guess no one cared.
Of course, I was in classes with throw-away kids.
It seemed like Angelica and Natalie asked me to go to the mall with them at least once a week. That should have rung some alarm bells, but it didn’t. I knew I could miss half my classes and still ace them. Maybe the IB program wasn’t all that hard, either, or maybe they were smarter than I thought.
I was so stupid. It never occurred to me that they weren’t going without me, that they didn’t shoplift on a regular basis.
They asked about the boy I’d used as an excuse and I told them it was all over. He’d kissed another girl, made me cry, got me in trouble, and that was the end of it for me. In reality, I did have a crush on a boy in my art class, but I wasn’t about to tell anyone about that.
Joey was such a good artist, and he had the longest, thickest eyelashes. I’d never seen him with a girl, but I was sure I wasn’t the only one who liked him. We had the same two art classes, back to back, in the same room, so we could keep working on a project for both periods. He didn’t talk a lot with anyone, he’d get so involved in his art, but when we had to critique each other’s work, he always found something nice to say about mine. Actually, he did the same thing with anyone, but it felt special at the time. Then the first week in December, in art class, I heard him ask another girl to go to the Christmas dance with him. I knew no one would ask me. No one else even talked to me much.
So the next day, when Angelica and Natalie tried to get me to go to the mall with them, I jumped on the chance to avoid art. They seemed surprised, almost reluctant to have me go along, even though they’d been asking me for weeks.
They were both going to the Christmas dance, so we spent all morning looking at dresses. I tried some on, too, so they wouldn’t know I wasn’t going. Out of habit, I kept checking price tags and shying away from the expensive dresses. They made fun of that, as if price was never an object for them.
During lunch, they barely spoke to me. In fact, they’d talked mostly between themselves all day. After we ate, they wanted to go to an electronics store. There was some gadget Natalie’s boyfriend wanted for Christmas. We must have looked at everything in the store before we found it, and it was crazy expensive.
“You’re not going to try and walk out of here with that, are you?” I asked.
I should have kept my mouth shut. Natalie took it as a challenge.
“If you and Angelica watch that no one’s coming.”
We went to opposite ends of the aisle and gave her a thumb’s up when no one was coming. She slipped it into her bag and we headed for the door. We started giggling about ten feet outside the store.
Right before the security guard stopped us.
The Incident is contemporary YA (Young Adult). Following time-honored tradition, I’m publishing it here in installments. To be alerted when the next segment goes online, “follow” this blog. The entire story will be published here. You are welcome to share this link with others, but please respect copyright by contacting me for permission if you want to publish the story elsewhere. Thank you.