Famous Last Words(10)

By: Katie Alender



I practically spat out a bite of mashed-up sweet potato fry. “Stepfather.”

“Okay, okay, calm down. Keep your food in your mouth.” She seemed amused. “So … your stepfather’s Jonathan Walters?”

“I guess.” Now I was blushing. “I mean, yes. Why do you ask?”

“Because that’s what people do when they meet other people. They ask questions about their lives and experiences.”

Oh. Right. I guess two years of social isolation hadn’t exactly honed my people skills. “Yes, he’s Jonathan Walters. What about you? Who are your parents?”

“My dad’s a producer, and my mom dabbles in everything. Lately she’s been talking about opening a dog rescue. Except she’s afraid of dogs.” Marnie waved her hand nonchalantly. “But you know — details.”

I tried to smile.

“What’s your schedule like for the rest of the day?” she asked.

I pulled it up on my phone. “Trig, English Lit, and Chemistry.”

“Cool.” She leaned back again. “Have you met a lot of people?”

“Um …” I said. “You.”

Her laugh was loud, like she didn’t care who heard her, but it was also pleasantly musical. “Hey, you could do worse. Better no friends than the wrong friends. Take them, for instance.”

She pointed to the tables next to the window, where the sunlight made gold halos around a bunch of kids who were obviously popular. Effortless confidence radiated off of them.

“The pretty people,” Marnie said, with an exaggerated sigh. “Even I can’t deny that they’re nice to look at. But talking to them is like being sucked inside a video of a cat playing the piano. Pointless. If you’re into discussing what to wear to sorority rush two years in advance, by all means, those are your people.”

“I don’t think I’m the sorority type,” I said.

She nodded approvingly. “All right, let’s get the rest out of the way. Over there, the football players — our team is terrible, but they still get treated like minor gods…. On the left you have the Ivy League Army, who are just trying to get into a good east coast school so they can leave this California hippie-dippie nonsense in the past…. Over by the teachers’ table, those are the trust-fund kids. You see a two hundred thousand dollar car in the parking lot, guaranteed it’s one of theirs. Like half their parents should technically be in jail for fraud, and I’m not even joking. To our right we find the musicians — obsessed with local bands,” Marnie went on, her tone as dry as a desert. “A couple of them play, but they’re no good.”

I nodded. Once the bell rang and the kids scattered, I knew they’d all look the same to me again. But there was something reassuring in having it all laid out in advance.

“Finally, you have the hackers, the slackers, and the … there’s just no polite way to say this — the dumb kids.”

The so-called dumb kids looked perfectly normal. And they seemed by far like the happiest people in the whole school.

“And who are you guys?” If I was only going to have one friend, I might as well know what I was getting into.

“We’re the Hollywood kids,” Marnie said with a shrug. “Our parents run studios, write million-dollar screenplays before breakfast, and direct blockbuster movies. Hence your belonging with us. I can’t promise we’re super nice or anything, but at least you’ll never have to hear the word jeggings come out of our mouths.”

“That’s a relief,” I said. So it was no coincidence that she’d invited me to sit there? I didn’t dwell on the thought – there was too much else to think about.

“I know it’s a lot to take in,” she said. “Feel free to glaze over and ignore me for a while.”

My eyes traveled to a table next to the emergency exit, where a guy sat alone with his laptop in front of him and a stack of notebooks out to the side. He had a mop of light brown hair, hipster-y plastic-framed glasses, and a solemn, focused look. I could tell that he didn’t belong to any of the groups Marnie had pointed out. He was oblivious to everyone and everything around him.

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