Never Slow Dance with a Zombie
Author:E. Van Lowe

chapter Four

The next morning I pulled out the snug-fitting top

I'd bought myself for my birthday, along with a pair of black slacks that did wonders to hide my huge thighs. My father once called the top too revealing--which is exactly what I was going for. It's a simple law of nature that when fishing, no matter how smart the fish, to attract the fish, you need something flashy.

"Flashy enough?" I asked Sybil, who had come over early to help me pick out the perfect outfit.

She nodded. "Here, put this on," she said, handing me her coveted bottle of Heavenly Heart by Clinique. A birthday gift from me. When I bought the cologne I was hoping she'd let me splash some on every once in a while. Yes!

"I've often wondered about fragrance as a gift," I said as I dabbed a bit in the center of my chest. "I mean, what is the buyer thinking when they choose a fragrance: This smells lovely, it's perfect for so-and-so, 'or 'So-and-so stinks like poop! I hope this helps.'" She looked at me, her eyes narrowing.

"Obviously I was thinking the former when I bought it for you I'm sorry. I'm just making conversation."

She laughed lightly. "Margot, I know you're nervous." Her tone was understanding.

"Tell me about it," I replied as I looked myself over in the mirror.

"Stop worrying. You look great."

I did look great. The moment of truth had arrived. My outfit, my wave, my smile, my scent were all ready to be put to the test. The only thing left to do was be in the right place at the right

"Hi, Dirk!"

Sybil and I were standing near our lockers when Dirk made his first appearance of the day. My heart practically leaped into my mouth when I saw him. He was so cute, cuter than the last time I saw him. My palms were again sweaty, my arms felt as if they'd been tied down by a sack of bricks, and my tongue was covered by a huge, woolen overcoat--which is probably why I got tongue-tied and my "Hi Dirk" came out "Lie Lirk."

Dirk looked in our direction, puzzled at first, then seeing me he smiled and waved. A few moments later he was finished at his locker and gone.

"Wow," I said, as relief drained all the tension from my body. "That wasn't so bad."

"I know. And you almost spoke to him in English this time."

"And he ... smiled at me."

"I know," Sybil said.

"He waved at me."

"I know."

"He ... might say yes and go to the carnival with me tonight."

"I know!"

"Okay. The next time I see him today, I talk to him--in English."

"Oooh," Sybil said with a playful smile.

Just then the morning announcement came over the PA system.

"A terrific Thursday morning to the students of Salesian High..." Principal Taft always started the day's announcement with one of his corny greetings--miraculous Monday, terrific Tuesday, wonderful Wednesday--before going over the day's events. The student body dutifully stopped whatever they were doing each morning to listen. This morning's announcement ended with Principal Taft reminding us that: "... tonight is Salesian High night at the carnival. Let's have a big Salesian Knight turnout."

A boyfriend, popularity, cool parties were within my grasp. All I needed to do to start the ball rolling was talk to Dirk about going to the carnival with me tonight, and turn his maybe into a yes.

The day started out perfectly; then Amanda Culpepper and her band of bones swept into the corridor like an ill wind. Her locker was a few feet from where we were standing, but if you weren't a member of Amanda's crew or the object of amusement, she had a way of looking through you as if you didn't exist.

"Oh, and did you see what she had the nerve to wear to school this morning?" Amanda crooned to her entourage. Then she laughed the laugh of a thousand cuts. I had been wounded by it before. But I was feeling too good about myself to allow Amanda's snotty attitude to get to me today.

As Sybil and I moved away from our lockers, Amanda dropped her World History book. Without thinking, I stooped and picked it up. It was a reflex that surprised even me.

As I handed her the book her eyes moved to me. The words amusement and derision winged through my mind.

"Here ya go," I said, not knowing what to expect.

She looked me up and down as if seeing me for the first time. "Um... Okay." She took the book, and the moment it was out of my hand I once again became invisible to her. Good, I thought. Better to be invisible than laughed at. She turned her attention back to her friends and continued her conversation as Sybil and I moved on.

"She didn't even say thank you," Sybil groused.

"Didn't she?"

"No, she didn't."

Sybil was too busy being angry to hear the laugh of a thousand cuts as it wafted up the hall. But I heard it, and knew it was directed at me.