In the week since the camping trip, Danni had failed to find a way to get things back to normal. She paused at the entrance to the cafeteria, her lunch clutched between her fingers. After a long, deep breath, she put her hand on the door and pushed. Across the room, her friends sat around a table, laughing. Anson threw an arm around Cordelia’s shoulder as she smacked him playfully on the chest. Danni let the door fall closed. She couldn’t take another day sitting at a corner table watching them have fun without her.
When she’d returned to school on Tuesday, she’d expected things to have blown over. But, when Danni had met her friends at Cordelia’s locker, Cordi had had the nerve to ask her if she was ready to apologize and talk things through. Still sure she was in the right, Danni had simply walked away to her homeroom.
Now, four days later, things hadn’t gotten any better. She had tried talking to Kori and Rayne. When that hadn’t worked, she’d gone to the guys. She’d thought that at the very least, she could get Blaine on her side, and Caleb. But, they’d all told her she had to apologize and work things out with Cordelia before she would be welcome back.
Danni could not figure out why they wanted her to apologize but expected nothing from Cordelia. She just had to wait it out until Anson broke up with Cordelia. Then her friend would run back to her for comfort and tell everyone else to stop being ridiculous. She just had to wait.
But she was getting tired of eating alone. And of hearing people whispering and gossiping. They’d never been the super popular, but everyone referred to them as a single unit. It’s how they were known. So the segregation of the closest group of girls in school definitely hadn’t gone unnoticed. And the shy, chubby girl snagging the hot new boy had set the school’s gossip machine buzzing. They were the centre of attention. Danni had expected that, if nothing else, to send Cordelia running back to her, but it hadn’t.
Danni pushed open the door beside the Home Ec lab and let herself into a small storage room for extra fabric and machines. Here she could sit and eat without condescending eyes staring at her. She’d work on her design for the competition and try to figure out who to replace Kyle with if things kept going the way they were. She slid down against the wall at the back of the room and pulled open her lunch bag. As she sunk her teeth into the soft bread, she heard the door to the room open. A halo of blonde curls glowed in the light from the little window near the top of the wall. The door had swung shut before Robyn realized the room wasn’t empty.
“Oh sorry, I didn’t…” The older girl started, stopping when she saw who was sitting on the floor. “Oh look, it’s little miss lost all her friends.” Robyn swung herself up on top of a low filing cabinet.
“Shut it, Robyn.” Danni mumbled into her sandwich.
“Oh, is it hard? Being all alone? No one to turn to. Eating in a closet like a loser. At least it’s not a bathroom stall.”
“Seriously, Robyn, shut your whore mouth.” Danni tossed her sandwich onto her lunch bag. “You don’t know anything about this.”
“I know that you and your little band of holy rollers have been on the outs all week. But everyone knows that.” Robyn kneeled on the cabinet and pushed open a small window near the ceiling. Reaching into her purse, she pulled out a pack of cigarettes, lit one, and blew the smoke towards the opening. “The thing no one can figure out is what could possibly have driven you and your little clinger apart? But, I know.”
“What exactly do you think you know?” Danni growled.
“That Anson chose your chubster friend over you. And when you were so sure he was going to choose you. And now you have to live with the humiliation of being passed over for that girl. Of all people – her.” Robyn puffed out a couple smoke rings. “But you’ll never tell anyone that’s what happened, because that would sound petty, right?”
“That’s…” Danni stopped herself “That’s not what it is.” She picked at a loose piece of lettuce along the edge of her sandwich.
“Sweetheart,” Robyn flicked the cigarette out the window before sliding down into a seated position, “It’s not petty when you’re right.”
“What?” Danni’s eyes snap to look at Robyn, who was looking at her with something like compassion.
“I do not know what that boy was thinking. Given the choice between you and that mousy little meek thing, I’d choose you.” Robyn pushed herself off the cabinet, her sandals slapping against the floor. “I’ll never admit this to anyone, but you used to seem like a lot of fun. But now, you’re just this wet noodle sliding around the hallways. Based on the girl you are now, he made the right choice.”
“That is not true!” Indignation burned in Danni’s chest. Robyn just smirked at her. “What?”
Reaching down, Robyn grabbed Danni’s hand and pulled her to her feet. She dragged her over to the corner of the room and pulled an old mirror from against the wall. “Look at yourself. Really look.” She stood behind Danni, forcing her to look into the full-length glass. “Even if you were obnoxiously shiny happy before, at least you were always stylish. Now you’re this.”
Danni looked into the mirror and suddenly saw that Robyn, of all people, was right. Her jeans were old and ragged, and not in a stylish way. The sweater she was wearing was the one she reserved for wallowing in bed with ice cream. “What the fu…?” She reached up to run her fingers through her flat, greasy hair. “When did this happen to me?”
“It’s like you and Mouse swapped. Suddenly, she’s all bubbly and smiling all the time. And I haven’t seen that blue sweater all week. You’re… well, you’re becoming this. Is this really the person you think is going to steal that boy from her? No boy is ever going to hump you when you look like this.”
With a deep breath, Danni turned away from the mirror. “Well, there’s nothing I can do about it right now.”
“Um, hello, we’re in a room full of fabric and stuff. Isn’t sewing like… your thing?” Robyn raised a skeptical eyebrow.
“And I’ve got how much time?” Danni glanced at her watch “Huh, 45 minutes. That I can work with that.” Looking around the room, she pulled a roll of fabric from the shelf and unrolling it as best she could in the little space. She ripped some from the bolt and looked around. “Can you bring me that dress form over there?”
Robyn wheeled the mannequin over to her and propped herself up onto the corner of the desk, watching as Danni began draping the fabric. Reaching into her bag, Danni pulled out her pin cushion. Jamming a few between her lips, she scrunched her eyebrows in concentration and let herself relax into the familiar rhythm. Halfway through the design, she stood and looked at the girl she’d considered her enemy for so many years.
“You want to help a little?”
“Depends what I have to do.”
Danni searched through a bin of random supplies, pulled out a wire brush and brandished it towards Robyn.
“I am supposed to do what with this?” She swung it from her fingertips like it was going to bite her.
“Take these,” Danni undid her jeans, slid them off, and handed them to Robyn. “Find strategic spots on there to distress and make it look like those jeans aren’t just an old pair from the back of my closet. Rough ‘em up a little bit.”
“I’ll see what I can do.” She began pulling the brush across the denim. Danni finished pinning the shirt and started to slip out into the hallway to go to the sewing room.
“Princess?” Robyn interrupted her.
“What?” Danni sighed, rolling her eyes at the tone. Robyn held up the pants in her lap. Danni looked down at her bare legs sticking out from beneath her sweater. “Oh shit. Thank you! That would have been the cherry to top off a crappy week.” Looking around the room, she spotted a machine set up on a desk at the far corner. After clearing off the stuff piled around it and making sure it worked, she sat down and began to work. Once she was done, she pulled on an off the shoulder t-shirt and held out her hands for her pants. Robyn had managed to make them look distressed instead of worn out. She grabbed some scraps of coloured fabric, braided them together into a belt, and added it to the outfit.
“Much better.” Robyn nodded as the other girl stepped back in front of the mirror.
“Now, if I could only do something about this hair.” Danni’s mouth twisted in annoyance. “It would have been helpful if I’d noticed this problem before leaving my house.”
“Sweetheart, you keep sewing supplies in your purse. I keep beauty supplies.” Robyn pulled out a tube, squirted some foam into her palm and went to work on Danni’s hair.
“Robyn?” Watching the foreign hands work her hair, Danni realized just how weird her life had become. If Robyn had tried to touch her this time last week, she would have punched her right in the face.
“Mmmm, hmmm?” The other girl concentrated on pulling the short dark hair into chiselled pieces.
“Why are you doing this?”
Robyn paused for a moment before answering. “The truth?”
“If it’s not too much trouble…”
“I get some joy out of seeing your happy little group of friends fall apart. And if you keep looking this pathetic, they’ll eventually feel bad enough to take you back. Cause they’re people who want to be good. I want this school to be less boring. This helps that.”
“So you really are a bitch, aren’t you?” Danni slid her gaze to meet Robyn’s.
“That depends on who you are. If I like you, I’m positively charming.” Robyn smiled a genuine smile. “And, that’s not my only reason.”
“Oh?” Danni had no idea what she expected to hear.
“There has been an unforeseen shift in the balance of power around here.” Robyn pulled out a bag of makeup and turned Danni to face her. “Suddenly, your band of hooligans has all but taken over. They’ve paired off and scooped up all these doable boys. Zack was my toy, and now he’s back with Kyle. Anson’s made it pretty clear that because of that plain, boring blah-blah, he won’t have anything to do with me. Rayne snagged your hottie brother. I am not okay with them running things. Not even a little bit. So, if you come over to the dark side, we can shake things up and return balance to the world.”
“So…” Danni paused, taking in everything Robyn had just said. “You want me to be your… friend?”
“Maybe not friends, exactly. I was thinking more of it like a win-win situation. At the very least, think how mad it will make your friends. And things on this side of the fence can be pretty fun.”
“They’ll be so confused they’ll have to admit they’re being stupid and talk to me. Once I’m back in, Anson will see he how wrong he is about Cordelia. Once he’s mine, I’ll find a way to repay you for your help.” As the bell rang, she turned to the mirror and nodded. “You are smarter than I ever gave her credit for.”
“Shall we fake it?” Robyn tossed an arm over Danni’s shoulder.
“Til we win.” Danni grinned as they headed into the hallway, genuinely laughing.