"We lived in such a perfect world. Why were we so imperfect?"
All Misty ever wanted was a normal family. But like so many others, Misty's parents didn't stay together. Now they use Misty to hurt each other, to deliver tiny cruelties in an endless stream. Misty knows her parents might love her. But Misty has an unspeakable secret that burns in the core of her very being: she hates them.
Misty isn't as alone as she thinks. She's about to meet three other girls who are just like her -- each one with their own dark secrets to share....
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"Good morning, Misty," Doctor Marlowe's sister Emma cried from the circular stairway after their maid Sophie opened the door.
Emma wore one of her flowery oversize dresses. Her hair was cut with razor-perfect precision at her earlobes and her bangs looked painted over her forehead and glued down a strand at a time. She kept her hair dyed coal black, probably to smother any signs of gray; however, the contrast with her pale complexion made the skin on her round face look like tissue paper. She froze on the steps, waiting for me to enter as if she thought I might change my mind.
Sophie closed the door behind me. From somewhere deep in the house came Mozart's Symphony no. 40 in G Minor. I'm not an expert on classical music; the only reason I could identify it was because we were practicing it in the senior high school band. I play the clarinet. My mother thought it might ruin my orthodontic work, but Mr. LaRuffa, our bandleader, practically signed an affidavit that it wouldn't. Mother finally put her signature on the permission slip.
My father forgot to attend this year's big concert, even though I had brought my clarinet to practice while I was at his new home the weekend before. Ariel, his twenty-something girlfriend, promised to remind him, which I thought was amazing in and of itself. She looked like someone who had little mirrors in her brain reflecting thoughts, bouncing them back and forth accompanied by little giggles that reminded me of tiny soap bubbles.
No matter how obvious I was with my sarcasm, Ariel smiled. I guess Daddy was comfortable with her because she looked like a Revlon model and never challenged a thing he said. Whatever prouncements he made, she nodded and widened her eyes as if he had just come up with a new world-shattering comment She was quite the opposite of my mother, who today would challenge him if he said good morning.
Mostly, Ariel gave him sex. According to my mother and her friends, that's all men really care about.
"The doctor will be with you in a moment or two," Emma said as she stepped down the carpeted stairs, taking each step with the same precaution someone walking across a muddy road might take: tiny, careful steps followed by a tight grasp on the balustrade. I wondered if she was an alcoholic. She wore enough perfume to cover the stench of a garbage truck so it was hard to tell from her breath if she drank or not, but she had gained at least forty pounds since I had first started with Doctor Marlowe and when I told that to Mommy, she said, "Maybe she's a closet drinker."
It better be a walk-in closet, I thought.
"How are you today, dear?" Rama asked when she finally stood before me. She wasn't much taller than I was, perhaps five feet one, but she seemed to inflate like a balloon replica of herself, her heavy bosom, each breast shaped like a football, holding the flowery tent out and away from her body.
I wore my usual costume for these mental games with Doctor Marlowe: jeans, sneakers and white socks, and any one of a dozen T-shirts that annoyed my mother. Today's had a beached whale on the front with a stream of black liquid drooling from its mouth. Under it was written Oops, another oil spill.
Emma Marlowe didn't seem to notice what I wore, ever. She was as nervous as usual in my presence and pressed her thick lips together as she smiled so that it looked more like a smothered little laugh.
"The doctor wants you to go directly to her office," she said, her voice thin and high-pitched like someone on the verge of screaming.
That's a relief for both of us, I thought.
"Anyone else here yet?" I asked.
Before she could reply, the doorbell rang and Sophie, who was standing to the side like some doll on a spring, sprung into action. She opened the door and we all looked out at a tall, attractive black girl with braided hair. She wore a light-blue cotton sweater and a dark blue skirt. I immediately thought, that's the figure I hope I have someday when my stupid hormones decide to wake up.
"Oh, Star," Emma Marlowe said. She looked back toward the music as if she was hoping to be rescued. "Come in, come in," she added quickly.
Star? I thought Doctor Marlowe meant that was her last name when she told me that was the name of one of the girls. Misty was hard enough to carry around, but Star? Doctor Marlowe had left out a small detail, too, that she was black.
Star smirked. It was a clear look of disgust, the corners of her mouth tucking in and her ebony eyes narrowing. She stared at me. For a moment it felt as if we were both gunslingers in a Western movie waiting for the other to make the first move. Neither of us did.
"I'm sure the doctor wanted to do all the introductions, but this is Misty," Emma Marlowe said.
"Hi," I said.
"Hi." She looked away from me quickly and practically dared Doctor Marlowe's sister to try to make small talk.
Instead, Emma made dramatic gestures toward the office and stuttered.
"You two can...just...go right on...in."
We walked to the office. Neither Star nor I needed any directions. We had been here enough.
The room was large for an office. One side of it was almost a small living room with two large brown leather sofas, some matching cushion chairs, side tables and a large, round, glass center table. The walls were a rich oak panel and there were French doors facing the rear of the house where she had her pool and her garden. It was facing the west side so if you had an afternoon appointment, the office was as bright as a Broadway stage. Morning appointments not only didn't have the direct sunlight, but when dominated by overcast skies required more lamplight.
I always thought the moods we experienced in this office had to be different on brighter days. You carried your depression and anxiety like overly loaded suitcases into this office and hoped Doctor Marlowe would help you unpack them. Darker days made it harder, the depression heavier.
I used to believe bad memories were stuck to my brain with super glue and if Doctor Marlowe pulled one off, a piece of me went along with it.
Sometimes, Doctor Marlow sat behind her desk and spoke to me while I sat on one of the sofas. I thought she might believe that if she was a little farther away, I would be more open. She did lots of little things like that to test me, and I couldn't wait to compare notes about her with my fellow OWPs.
I went right to my usual sofa and Star paused. I could see what she was thinking.
"Which one do you usually use when you're here?" I asked her.
She glanced at the other and then looked at me sharply.
"What difference does it make?" she replied. I shrugged. She remained standing.
I always sleep on the right side of my bed. What about you?"
"Huh?" She grimaced and when she did, her eyebrows hinged and her ears actually twitched. I laughed. "What's so damn funny?"
"Your ears moved," I said.
She stared a moment and then she cracked a smile on her black porcelain face. Her complexion was so smooth and clear, it looked like a sculptor had put finishing touches on her just an hour ago in his studio, whereas I had little rashes and pimples breaking out on my forehead and around my chin practically every other day despite my high-priced skin specialist. Mommy blamed it on things I ate when she wasn't around. Doctor Marlowe said stress could cause them, too. If that was the case though, my head should be one giant zit, I thought.
I know," Star said. "Everyone tells me I do that, but I don't even know I'm doin' it. I sleep on the right side, too," she said after a beat.
"And when you have to sleep on the other for some reason or another, it's a problem, right?"
"Yeah," she admitted and decided to sit on the same sofa I had taken.
"How long have you been seeing her?" she asked me.
I thought a moment.
"About this title" may belong to another edition of this title.
Book Description Pocket, 2011. Paperback. Book Condition: New. 0671028006. Bookseller Inventory # IM70161
Book Description Pocket, 1999. Mass Market Paperback. Book Condition: New. Bookseller Inventory # DADAX0671028006
Book Description Pocket, 1999. Mass Market Paperback. Book Condition: New. book. Bookseller Inventory # M0671028006
Book Description Pocket, 1999. Mass Market Paperback. Book Condition: New. Bookseller Inventory # P110671028006
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