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Excerpt

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Everything about this is a huge mistake. But I remind myself it’s just Emma and Aisha outside that door.  Now that I’ve gone this far, I might as well go all the way. I remove my ponytail, lean over, and toss my hair with my hands into a wavy mess. When I flip back up the reflection in the mirror is a bit scary—lots of bare skin and big hair—but I figure it will definitely do the trick and get major laughs from both of them.

I throw open the door and step out to the opening chords of Lady Gaga’s Born This Way.  The music is blaring and I strut across the room in an exaggerated catwalk strut.  The straps slips down off my bare shoulders, but I don’t care.  My goal has been realized.  I have saved the day.  Aisha and Emma are laughing so hard they can barely talk.

“Work it, girl,” Emma calls out.

And I do.  I glance over one shoulder, tossing my hair back from my face in slow-motion.  Bending forward, I kiss the air in my best supermodel imitation. 

Aisha whistles and Emma is making loud whooping noises.

It is just us and I have to admit, I love making them laugh.  I ramp it up even more, prancing and twirling across the room.  

“Skye.  Skye,” Aisha calls out.  “Look this way.”

I twist around to blow another kiss her direction, but then catch my reflection in the sliding glass door.  Everything stops. I freeze mid-spin, yanking up the straps on the nightgown. I don’t know who that girl is with all the red lace, curves and skin—but it isn’t me.

“Oh. My. God.”  Aisha squeals.  “Don’t quit now! That’s perfect.”

I look from my reflection to Aisha. Her phone is out in her hand.  She’s filming me.

No. No. No.                 

I panic, holding out my hands to block the camera. There were only supposed to be two people watching me prance around in practically nothing, but Aisha just let the world in. 

“Stop, Aisha.  Erase it.” I beg her, grabbing for the phone.

She holds the phone out of my reach.  “It was live on ChitChat.  I can’t erase it yet, but relax. I’ll delete it in fifteen minutes. Promise.”

I feel horror clutch at me.  “Aisha! Hundreds… thousands…of people can see it by then!” I sputter.

Aisha rolls her eyes at my reaction.  “Only if they’re on ChitChat like, now.”

Fifteen minutes feels like a lifetime.

“Don’t freak out,” Aisha says. There is a sudden tone in her voice, and a sharp flash in her eyes—almost too quick to catch, but I see it.  She thinks I’m overreacting and silly.  If we were ten years old again, she’d call me a baby and make me cry.

Emma is studying the video on her phone, via ChitChat.  “You look great.  Want to watch it?”

I shake my head frantically, determined not to cry. “No, I want it to go away.”

“And it will,” Emma says, soothingly.  “Just give it a little more time then, poof…your time as a supermodel is history.”

“I’m sorry.  It’s just that I’m…” My voice dwindles off into silence.

“Crazy?” Aisha asks.  That edge is back in her voice. 

“I was going to say super sensitive,” Emma says, patting me on the shoulder.

Aisha rolls her eyes.  “I don’t know why you have to be so self-conscious, Skye.”

Live in my skin for sixteen years.  Maybe you’ll get it.

I take a deep breath. “Let me see it.”

“Are you sure?” Emma asks.

I nod, but I’m not sure at all. 

Emma holds out her phone and I look down at the screen.  The video starts with a pan of the room, then focuses in on the closed bathroom door.  Suddenly the door opens, and a girl stalks out in red lingerie.  Oh. My. God.  The back of my neck is on fire, the flames rushing up into my face.

That girl in the video is me.

I can’t stop watching.  My skin is white and flabby, rolling over the tight strips of red in all the wrong places.  But my face is so proud.  So stupidly happy.  Like I don’t even know how horribleI look.

Make it stop.  In a panic, I push frantically at the screen.

“See.  You look fine.” I hear Aisha’s voice like it’s far away.  “I told you.  It isn’t that bad.”        

People—everyone—will watch this video and think I wantto be seen this way.  I look up from the screen, eyes wide. 

“Emma, take it down,” I beg.

She shrugs sympathetically.  “You know I can’t.”

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by by Donna Cooner