MORE ABOUT THIS BOOK
This paper plane was near perfect.
Crisp edges, a pointy nose, and just the right weight. I held it up, closing my left eye to aim it toward the stage. Rose Carver and her short-brimmed black hat were in fine form today, a perfect target, her face lit up beatifically by the stage lights. As she went on about junior prom announcements, I grew more focused.
“Clara, aim it at her face.”
My eyes swept over to Patrick Keen sitting next to me. He was slouched so far down in his seat that his chin was touching his chest, his long, pale limbs folded into an impossible position.
“That’s not how I roll, jerk,” I said.
“Yeah, we’re here for the giggles, not tears,” Felix Benavides whispered from my other side. He looked at me for approval when he said it, eyebrow arched.
Sometimes these two really knew how to kill a joke. Glancing around the auditorium to make sure no teachers were watching, I lifted the plane into my line of vision …
I startled, the paper plane dropping by my feet with a clatter. The voice had come over the speakers. Why was Rose saying my name up there?
I cupped my hands around my mouth and bellowed, “WHAT?” It reverberated off the wood-paneled walls and high ceilings.
Rose rolled her eyes and exhaled into the microphone, making it squawk. “I just said you’re nominated for junior prom queen.” She held up a piece of paper and stared at it, in disbelief at the words she was seeing.
Patrick and Felix burst out laughing and then reached over me to high-five each other. Oh my GOD. “I’m going to kill you guys,” I hissed. As people swiveled their heads to look over at me, I started to form an idea.
Rose cleared her throat into the microphone. “Anyway, the other nominees are—”
I stood up, making the folded upholstered seat bounce loudly as it closed. “Thanks, Rose!” I hollered. She frowned, then squinted into the audience to see what I was doing. I remained standing, then held up my arms dramatically. “And thank you, student body, for this honor.” I projected my voice as I looked around. I saw a few teachers get up. Need to make this quick.
“Thank you for letting me into your hearts. And now, my promise to you: if I get voted prom queen, there will be some much-needed changes made to Elysian High…”
Rose’s voice interrupted me from the speakers. “You don’t get to do anything if you win prom queen. It’s not like being class president!” she scoffed into the microphone. She would know; she was junior class president.
“Regardless!” My voice boomed. “I will promise you all one thing … as Queen Clara.” I racked my brain for what, the improvisation making me buzz. Then, an idea struck. I motioned for Patrick to hand me my backpack. He tossed it to me, and I reached into the front zippered pocket. “I promise that us girls will not be prisoners to our bodies! We will have equal rights!” Some girls cheered in the audience.
Rose spoke again. “We do have equal—”
“So, in the spirit of feminism and equality—THERE WILL BE FREE TAMPONS FOR ALL!” I yelled, releasing fistfuls of my tampons into the crowd. Good thing I had just bought a new box that morning. Yellow-patterned, regular-flow—they flew into the air and landed on the heads and laps of the people in the rows around me. The laughter came in waves, and girls sprang out of their seats to pick up tampons off the floor, some chasing them as they rolled down the aisles. Boys threw them at one another. More teachers stood up to calm everyone down. Rose Carver stomped offstage in a huff.
The disruption and mayhem fed my soul, and I looked around the auditorium triumphantly.
“Aren’t you glad we nominated you?” Felix asked, popping a toothpick into his mouth and grinning. Felix thought chewing on toothpicks made him look like James Dean or something.
I shrugged. “It made things interesting.”
I looked down the row of seats toward the voice of my young, white homeroom teacher, Mr. Sinclair. I threw him a wide smile. “Hey, Mr. S.”
“Hey, yourself. I’m reporting you to the principal, let’s go.” Because these assemblies were always held during homeroom, Mr. Sinclair was left in charge of me. Lucky him.
Patrick let out a low whistle. “I’ll go with you, Mr. S.” He winked at him.
Young, handsome Mr. Sinclair, with the chiseled jaw and thick blond hair, rolled his eyes. “Not this time. Clara. Now.” He adjusted his tortoiseshell glasses, a nerdy little signature gesture that made everyone in his classes swoon.
I grabbed my backpack and took my sweet time walking by everyone in my row to get to him. The audience was already starting to disperse when I followed Mr. Sinclair down the aisle toward the double doors.
“Nice stunt,” Mr. Sinclair said as we wove through the streams of students headed out of the auditorium.
“I live to please.”
He shook his head. “Aren’t you sick of detention by now?”
“Nope, can’t get enough.”
“Why can’t you channel that smart-mouth into your schoolwork?”
The May Los Angeles sunshine blinded me the second we stepped outside, and I pulled on my mirrored aviators. “Are you saying I’m smart?”
Before he could answer, someone called out my name from behind us. I turned around and made a face. It was Rose Carver.
Tall, graceful, and precise in her movements, Rose walked briskly over to me. Her skinny jeans fit her dancer’s legs like a glove, her floral-print blouse was tucked in, and the pixie cut under her hat showed off her delicate features. Rose looked like a long-lost Obama daughter.
When she reached me, I was annoyed that I had to look up at her. “What?” I asked.
Her expression was focused and determined. I could feel the bossiness rolling off her in waves.
I hated Rose Carver.
She jabbed a finger into my shoulder. “You need to shut this down.”
“Shut what down?”
“This whole prom-queen thing. You had your fun. Tampons, hardy har har,” she said, throwing her head back. Then she focused her laserlike eyes on me again. “Now, drop out of the running and let someone who actually cares have a chance to win.”
Her condescension was like manna from the gods. I squinted up at her. “You mean, someone like you?”
She rolled her eyes. “Yeah, or anyone else, really.”
“You’re so selfless, always thinking about the greater good,” I said with a smile.
Her eyes closed briefly, as if she was harnessing all that impeccable self-control exercised by high-achieving ballerinas everywhere. “I didn’t spend months as the head of the prom committee only to have you make a joke out of the whole thing.” The thought of spending months caring about prom was suffocating.
I stood on my tippy-toes to try to be at eye level with her. “I’m not going to apologize for you wasting your social life on prom.” Her eyes flashed and I continued, “You know, I was considering dropping out. But you just made me change my mind.”
“Clara, Rose. That’s enough,” Mr. Sinclair said. “Let’s go.”
I patted Rose’s arm before walking away. “See you at prom, Rose.”
From behind me, I heard her shout, “You’re such a child!”
I continued down the familiar path toward the principal’s office.
Text copyright © 2018 by Maurene Goo