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Authors: Mari Mancusi

Tags: #Divorce, #Science & Technology, #Sports & Recreation, #Cartoons and comics, #Fantasy games, #People & Places, #Comic Books; Strips; Etc, #Massachusetts, #Schools, #Juvenile Fiction, #Social Issues, #Love & Romance, #Comics & Graphic Novels, #United States, #Children of divorced parents, #Games, #Marriage & Divorce, #Fiction, #School & Education, #Role playing, #Family, #General, #New Experience, #High schools, #Moving; Household

Gamer Girl

BOOK: Gamer Girl
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Mari Mancusi

Gamer Girl

Gamer
Girl

Mari
Mancusi

To all the irl
gamer grrls out there who totally pwn the boyz. Hawt chixOrz FTW

CHAPTER 1

GRANDMA'S HOUSE
was a study of crystal and glass and contained 1,153 unicorns. I
knew, because I counted one drizzly, dreary Thanksgiving when we were
stuck inside waiting for the world's slowest turkey to brown. Horned
beasts of crystal, glass, china, wood--she called them her "babies"
and treasured them more than her dwindling life savings. (Dwindling
mainly due to her unicorn habit. You wouldn't believe the prices of
these things from the Franklin Mint.) Whenever we'd come over, she'd
sit me down and show me her favorites.

She had a lot
of favorites.

That was fine
and tolerable when we lived an hour away and saw her once a year.
Over the river and through the woods and all that. But now we were
living with her. In her museumlike house. Surrounded by unicorns.

I suppose my
story isn't unique. After all, half of marriages end in divorce, or
so they say. Maybe I should count my blessings that Mom and Dad stuck
it out as long as they did.

4

Still, having
to vacate our uber-hip Back Bay Boston brown-stone, leave my private
school and friends behind, and move to Unicorn Land--all in the
middle of my sophomore year-- was a bit much.

But I had no
choice. Mom and Dad weren't speaking, unless they were yelling.
Neither one could afford the mortgage on the brownstone, so they
smacked down a For Sale sign and split--Dad to a smaller apartment
down the street and Mom, me, and my eight-year-old sister, Emily, to
New Hampshire. To Grandmother's house we go.

I can't even
begin to tell you how painful that last day at my old school was.
Saying good-bye to all my beloved teachers, promising my friends I'd
IM and text at every possible second, cleaning out my locker, and
tearing down the My Chemical Romance poster I'd stuck on the inside
door on the first day of the school year. I'd been so full of hopes
and dreams for the year back then. I was going to join the art club,
write for the school paper, and, of course, make Ashley's older
brother, David Silverman, my boyfriend. (Okay, the last one was a
long shot, but you couldn't blame a girl for being goal oriented,
could you?) It was going to be the best year ever.

Now, four
months later, it was gearing up to be the worst.

"Maddy!
You'd better get down here or you'll miss the bus!" Grandma
called from downstairs, bringing me back to my hellish reality, aka
my first day at Hannah Dustin High School. There were prisoners on
death row more excited

5

about their
pending visit with the electric chair than I was about my enrollment.

I mean, hello!
First off, there was a bus. An actual bus to take me from my
middle-of-nowhere Grandma's house to my still-middle-of-nowhere
school. Back home, I always walked. Met my friends at Dunkin' Donuts
for French crullers and coffee, then giggled and gossiped all the way
to the campus of Boston Academy. Now I'd actually have to board a
smelly, fume-filled, environment-destroying bus to get to school. At
least I was getting my license in a few weeks when I turned sixteen.
Though my chances of getting Grandma to lend me the car were slim to
none.

My cell buzzed,
scattering all thoughts of transportation. I glanced down to see the
text. From Caitlin.

GOOD LUCK ON
FIRST DAY!

I smiled,
feeling a tiny bit better. At least I had my friends. Sure, they were
farther away from me now, but they still cared. I punched in
Caitlin's number.

"Hey,
girl," I said into the phone after she answered.

"Oh, hey,
Mads, how's it going? How're the 'burbs? They arrest you for not
wearing Gap yet? Turn your mom into a Stepford wife?" Caitlin
had a habit of asking at least four questions in the same breath,
making it impossible to answer any of them.

"Hardy-har-har,"
I replied. "You are too funny."

"Whatevah.
At least I'm not funny-looking."

6

"Haven't
looked in the mirror lately, have you?" I asked, with mock
sympathy.

"I'm
looking now,
bay-bee.
And I'm looking fine. DAMN fine."

I grinned,
picturing my best friend dancing in front of the mirror as she was
known to do, flaunting all that God had given her to anyone who cared
to look. Caitlin was born without an insecurity gene. She died her
hair pink and pierced her own nose in seventh grade. Her mother was
totally cool with it, too, saying that girls needed to express
themselves early in life so they could blossom into healthy,
self-sufficient women who didn't need a man to complete them.
(Caitlin's mother was also divorced--after her husband ran off to
Vegas with his secretary. Some believed she was still a bit bitter
about the whole thing.)

Hmm. Maybe my
divorced mom would now let me explore the Manic Panic hair color
rainbow, too. It'd be so cool to get some pink streaks in my hair.
One time Caitlin and I went to Harvard Square after school and got
the clip-on kind. Mom nearly had a heart attack until she found out
they weren't real.

"Madeline!"
Grandma again, this time sounding more insistent.

I groaned.
"Sorry, Caits, gotta run before Grandma has kittens and starts
sneezing to death."

"Okay, no
prob," Caitlin said. "Good luck today. I hope you meet tons
of uber-cool rock girls and sexy, sexy bad boys."

7

"I'll
settle for anyone not openly worshipping the gods of Aberzombie,"
I replied with a laugh. "I'll miss you guys. Don't have too much
fun without me."

"Wouldn't
dream of it. We'll mourn you all day and fast in your honor at
lunchtime. Unless they're serving pizza, of course. If they're
serving pizza, consider yourself gone and forgotten."

"Fair
enough. I'll call you after school to let you know how it went."

"Cool.
Later, gator."

I pressed End,
grabbed my hoodie, and vacated the Pepto-Bismol-colored,
unicorn-themed bedroom Grandma had stuck me in. Pretty nauseating,
let me tell you, though I couldn't exactly complain. After all,
originally she wanted me to share it with Emily. I think I would have
stabbed myself with a unicorn horn if I had to bunk up with my little
sis. Luckily for me, Emily wasn't so keen on the idea either and used
her big mouth to voice her displeasure. Repeatedly. So Grandma
cleaned out her sewing room and declared it Emily's. Kid had a gift
for getting exactly what she wanted. I envied her that.

I started down
the shag-carpeted stairs and found Grandma standing in the
unicorn-infested living room below, a sentry guarding the path to
freedom. And let's just say her stern, disapproving look could have
been picked up by a satellite.

I glanced
around for Mom, but she was nowhere to be found. Must have already
left for work. Not good. I bit my

8

lower lip,
knowing exactly what was coming before the woman even opened her
mouth. "You're wearing
that
to school?"

"Uh . . .
yes?" I really couldn't think of anything else to say. I prayed
I was wrong about Mom being at work and that she'd suddenly come
around the corner and assure Grandma that my look was perfectly
acceptable for a twenty-first-century teen. But no luck.

Okay, fine,
maybe I should have dressed a
tad
more conservative. We
were
in the suburbs after all. But image was everything in high school and
I felt I needed to make the appropriate "This is who I am"
statement from day one to attract the right friends. (Sad, but true.)
So I'd donned a short plaid skirt, paired with Doc Marten boots and a
zip-up hoodie over my Pooka the Goblin Cat baby doll tee. It said,
Gothy, but approachable.

At least to me.
Grandma was obviously getting a different message as she fanned
herself with a wrinkly hand, shaking her head in disbelief. Eesh.
You'd have thought I'd come downstairs in Britney Spears's last VMA
outfit.

"Madeline
Ann, you look like a dead prostitute," she declared.

I opened my
mouth to defend and retort, but reluctantly closed it again. We'd
been drilled by Mom since day one not to talk back to Grandma.
After
all, she's sooo nice to let us live here. We need to respect her and
her rules.

"I don't
know what kind of getup you wore back in that

9

city"
Grandma said, spitting out the word
city
as if it were poison.
"But you'll find kids in Farmingdale don't dress like that."

It was an
effort not to roll my eyes. How did she know what kids wore? When was
the last time she hung out at the local high school? I'd be willing
to bet it was back when
Grease
was still the word. I looked
longingly at the front door, wondering if I could just make a run for
it. Grandma was old. Had arthritis. She probably couldn't catch me if
I dashed outside and caught the bus just as it was picking up the
neighbor kids down the street. . . .

Then, as if by
a miracle, I heard a beep outside. Phew.

"The bus!"
I cried. "Gotta go."

Grandma leaped
in front of the door, effectively blocking my escape. For a lady
approaching seventy, she sure could move quickly. "Not so fast,"
she said. "I'll drive you." She folded her arms across her
chest. "After you change."

"But. . ."

"No buts.
Now hop to it!"

My shoulders
slumped. I wasn't going to win this, was I? I trudged over to the
stairs, my feet feeling like they were made of lead. Out the window,
I caught the bright yellow vision of freedom pulling away from the
curb.

"You
know," I remarked as I climbed, stair by stair, "I don't
have anything in my closet you'd possibly approve of. Seriously. Most
everything I own is black."

But Grandma had
already thought of this. "Don't worry,

10

sweetie,"
she replied immediately. "You can borrow some of
my
clothes."

I stopped
walking. Oh, no. No, no, no!

Sure enough,
fifteen minutes later I'd been stuffed into a pair of bulky, pale
blue "mom jeans" that came up past my belly button and a
totally nonfitted oversized sweatshirt with--brace yourself
here--frolicking unicorns embroidered on the front.

It couldn't get
worse. It just couldn't.

I looked in the
mirror, tears welling up in my eyes. "Please, Grandma. I can't
wear this to school. Seriously."

"And why
not?" she demanded, coming up behind me and straightening my
sweatshirt. "I think you look adorable."

Of course
you do.
"Yeah, but they're ..." I was about to say
old
lady clothes,
but remembered Mom's warning not to offend. "No
one my age would be caught dead in this kind of outfit," I
amended. "If I show up like this, everyone's going to laugh at
me."

"If they
laugh at you, then they're not your friends." Grandma huffed.
"Real friends don't judge people by what they wear, but what
they're like on the inside."

There was a
huge, gigantic flaw in that argument since
she
was the one who
made me change clothes in the first place, but I realized it would do
no good to point it out.

Instead, I
looked back in the mirror, praying maybe I could pull it off as some
kind of edgy street wear the kids in the 'burbs hadn't heard of yet.
Like,
Dude, unicorns are so in right now, where have you been?
But it was no use. While I might

11

have slid by
with the unicorn thing, there was no way the mom jeans would escape
notice.

I would have to
kill myself on the way to school. Or run away and join the circus. Or
. . .

A plan formed
in my mind. As soon as Grandma dropped me off, I'd leave campus and
find a store. There had to be stores around somewhere. Buy a decent
outfit and head to class. I might have to miss first period, but it
would be well worth it.

"Okay,
let's go," Grandma said, jingling her keys.

Feeling better
at having a plan, I joined her in her ancient Toyota and let her
drive me to school. Ten minutes later she pulled into the parking
lot. I looked up at the brick building on the hill. What would it be
like? Would my teachers be cool? Would I find new friends? I looked
down at my hands and realized they were shaking. I wished for the
thousandth time I was wearing my normal clothes. I would have felt a
hell of a lot more confident dressed as me.

I exited the
car, thanking Grandma for the ride. To my dismay, she pulled the key
out of the ignition and joined me on the curb.

"Um,"
I said, looking at her smiling face with concern. "What are you
doing?"

BOOK: Gamer Girl
10.04Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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