Authors: Hillary Homzie
I strode purposefully into the bathroom and stopped by the last stall, the new and original home of the List, and waited behind a strawberry blond-headed girl with pigtails.
“And did you see Vinday got onto the List?” went Nia. Then she saw me and suddenly stopped speaking. I expected them to run away from me like I was the “it” in a game of hide-and-seek.
“Hey,” I said, trying hard to give them my
face. Seeing them together made my stomach muscles bunch up.
They both gave me grade-A fake smiles. They were so obsessed with the Hot List. They probably wouldn't leave the bathroom for the rest of the day. Just so they could be near the List. And moisturize with organic products. You'd think they lived in the Mojave Desert and not outside of Denver.
Nia turned away as Maddie shrugged and gave me a guilty look.
I noticed her hair had grown out and was now almost
touching her shoulders and had a lot more body. She must have gotten some kind of a perm of something. I couldn't help but check myself out in the mirror. Yeah. The same brown eyes and long dark brown, almost black, hair that touched my shoulders. But it wasn't flowy like Nia's or Maddie's. It was straight as a board.
Sighing, I headed into the stall and checked out the lame-o list.
There was still Hayden Carus at the top. I started by reading from the top of the guys' list:
And next to it was the girls' list.
The List was so long that it ran to the bottom of the door. Of course, Squid's name wasn't there. But when I glanced at the girls' list there were a couple of surprises. I still wasn't on the Hot List, but Maddie had pulled up to number nine, even ahead of Sierra. Nia, of course, was still number one followed by Ava. Some things never changed, except friendships. I think Maddie's sister, Gwen, had been right about seventh grade after all.
s I got out of the stall, I could hear Nia and Maddie
speaking as they applied lip gloss by the sink. When they saw me walk out, Nia said, “Sorry you didn't get on.”
“I don't care,” I snapped.
“Are you mad at me because you don't have the power of the List anymore?”
“No,” I whispered back.
“Because it's beyond you. There's this energy around the List.” She clutched her crystal necklace. “It's big. It's bigger than any of us.”
“People make the List, not energy from your crystal.” Then I lowered my voice even more. “I might not have the pen anymore, but I know how to get someone on the List. Look at Maddie. She started hanging with you, dresses the part, and then, voila, she's on. It'd be true for anyone.”
“No, it's so beyond that,” said Nia in her New Agey way.
“Exactly,” agreed Maddie.
Nia stood back and pressed her lips together. “The List's like a perfect snapshot of hotness. It's eerie.”
“It's freaky,” said Maddie.
I had to speak up again. “It's because you guys both got on that you think it's all eerie and magical.”
“That's so evil,” said Nia. “It has nothing to do with that.”
I stared at Maddie. “It's simple. Like I said, you got contacts and started wearing Nia's clothes. That's why you're on the Hot List.”
Nia glared at me. “You enjoy being mad, don't you? It's so sad. You just can't handle us being friends.”
I swallowed and then said, “What I can't handle is the way you go around acting like the Hot List âknows.' People write the Hot List. Okay? It's people.” I peered at Maddie meaningfully. “Hello. It doesn't just appear.”
“Actually, I think it does,” snapped Nia. “Nobody ever sees anyone writing it up. Ev-er. I'm not doing it. And neither is”âshe ticked off names on her fingersâ“Maddie, Ava, McKenzie, Amber, or Sierra.”
“You think the Hot List has powers or something? It doesn't. Trust me. Maddie is on the List now because she changed her look. That's it. If I gave advice to the biggest loser at the school, I could get him up on the next List. No
problem. It's people who start acting like models who get on the List. The List doesn't, like, give them a makeover. They do it to themselves.”
Nia grabbed my hand. “We've got to talk,” she said.
“Aren't we, like, talking right now?”
She shook her head so her corkscrew curls bounced. “I've got an idea. But it's kind of private. And involves both of us.” She pointed to the stall, the one on the very end. “In there.”
Only Nia would want to talk in a bathroom stall. She looked around at the other girls who began to stare at us. She shrugged. “Like I said, it's private.”
“What about me?” asked Maddie.
“Sorry, just room for two,” said Nia.
Maddie's frown made me feel a little bit happy.
She should know what it feels like to be left out,
I thought. I put on my
face and bravely headed for the stall. But what was I thinking? What did the person on my most-annoying list have to say to me now? My back pressed up against the giant toilet-paper dispenser. “So what's up, Nia?” I asked, pretending that I loved being stuck in a small space that smelled like bleach and bubble gum.
“You said you could get the biggest loser on the List.”
“So do it. âCause I don't think you can.”
“Afraid? That you're wrong.” She looked at me knowingly.
“I could do it.”
“If you can do it, then I'd do something completely psycho. Like”âshe shut her eyes for a momentâ“put on a fuzzy pink boa, tiara, and sparkly shoes, and in the middle of the caf, I'd give my crush the five things I like about him written on little heart-shaped pieces of paper.”
Wow. That was insane. Did I really care that much about Nia to take this on? The better part of me knew I shouldn't, but a bigger part of me wanted to prove something. Like to Maddie how absurd the Hot List had become. And the fact that Nia could potentially, absolutely humiliate herself seemed like a worthwhile bonus.
“Cool,” I said. “I'd so love to see you do that.”
“But if you lose,
have to put on the tiara, pink fuzzy boa, and sparkly shoes. And”âshe grinned happilyâ“in the middle of the caf do the five-things-I-like-about-you thing to your crush.”
“Is this, like, a bet?”
Ugh. That was as scary as the piece of paper that wouldn't flush in the List stall and was swirling around the toilet.
“Okay,” I said. Because I was crazy at that exact moment. But mostly because Nia always made me feel like I was a loser. And I was
tired of it. When it came to Maddie, she had won the friendship battle. But I wasn't some wimpy pushover.
Right now I was going to get a chance to show them what I could do.
I smiled and tried not to breathe in bleach and bubble gum smell. “Yeah, I'll do it.”
“Great.” Nia fingered her colored beads. “You've got, like, a month to get some loser on the next Hot List.”
“Not a problem. But there's one thing. How do I know that you're not the one writing the List or one of your friends? I mean, you could just leave off whoever I pick.”
“I'm so not doing the List,” she said, holding up her hand. “I swear on my grandfather.” She blinked a few times. “He died last year, and, um, well, I wouldn't swear on him, if it wasn't true.”
As much as I didn't like her fake-hippie, New-Agey-best-friend-stealing self, for some reason, I believed her. “We're on,” I said and shook her hand. Her fingers were slimy from that mango moisturizer. “Now we just need to find this so-called loser.”
Nia smiled at me like she was actually genuinely happy, whereas usually she acted like I was a rock in her
knee-high boots. “You said anyone,” she pointed out.
get to choose.”
“Sure,” I said, trying to outdo her with confidence. “Bring on the loser.”
high-pitched squeal pierced through the bathroom.
“Boy!” screamed someone.
“Where?” Nia burst out of the stall, and, like a maniac, I rushed after her.
There stood SquidâSQUID RODRIGUEZâstaring at the List. He waggled his hips like he was auditioning for
Dancing With the Stars
. “Am I on it? I am, right? Right?” His eyes grew saucer round, and his tongue lolled out of his mouth. He looked like a giant puppy hungry for a treat.
“You've got to leave,” said Nia. “Now!”
“You can't be here,” said Maddie.
“Sorry,” said Squid. “But I'm going in there.” He pointed to the Hot List stall. A bunch of girls giggled.
“Go to the boy's bathroom, dude,” stated Nia in her very bossy leadership-council voice. She pointed toward the door. “It's down the hall.”
The girls inside the List stall burst out and backed away.
“I didn't mean you. I mean him.” She pointed at Squid. “I said leave. You're a boy. This is a girls' bathroom. You can find out if you're on the List. But not in here.”
Squid cut the line and marched right up to the List stall door. I couldn't believe he barged in like that. He was more of a geek/weirdo than I thought.
Everybody in the bathroom held their breath, which in the bathroom was probably always a good idea.
That was when Nia and Maddie rushed in front of him. Squid tried to push his way past but they were stronger.
Not that it was saying much.
So Squid ducked right under them and into the stall.
Being small had its advantages.
Once inside, he went, “Aha” and “Oh” and “Interesting.”
Maddie raced to my side. “What were you guys talking about? What did Nia want?”
I gave her a look:
Like I would tell you
. “Ask Nia.”
“Fine,” Maddie said, doing her frowny thing.
There were squeals as Squid exited the stall. Nia tried to grab him, but he slid out of her grasp.
“Get out!” she yelled. For a moment, I semi-liked Nia.
She was so determined to be rid of Squid, and that was a positive thing.
Squid guarded his turf, so Nia pushed against him like he was a volleyball, and then he lunged forward and walked on his hands. With his skills, I could definitely see him joining the circus, especially the clown show. A bunch of girls screamed and yelled, “Freak!”
That's when Mrs. Heidegger, the hall monitor, barreled into the bathroom. I quickly hunched over and pulled my hoodie down. Mrs. Heidegger raised her silver whistle to her mouth and inhaled a deep breath.
I had to clap my hands over my ears because it was so ridiculously high and loud.
“Okay, clear out!” Mrs. Heidegger didn't need to ask me twice. I slinked out as the custodian spotted Squid. “What are you doing in here, buddy?”
Squid shrugged. “I had an emergency.”
“Him,” Nia said as we moved down the hallway.
“Him what?” I asked.
She nodded and smugly folded her arms in front of her chest.
“He's the one,” she mouthed.
Then suddenly, I got it. Squid. I had to get Squid Rodriquez on the Hot List in one month. Sure, I had been
decent at doing some wardrobe consulting with Maddie when we were friends. But this was waaaaaay different. I wasn't a miracle worker. I wasn't some twenty-first-century saint or something.
What on earth had I gotten myself into?
he Top Five Reasons Why Speaking to Squid Is Impossible
1. He's weird and his weirdness might rub off on me like some kind of contagious disease.
2. He doesn't talkâhe screams. And he will probably let everyone know, while screaming, that I have helped him do something lame.
3. He is not a television set so I can't turn down his volume.
4. He looks like a Lego figureâshort, blocky, and cartoony. Only with Legos, you can take them apart and rebuild them into something better.
5. He smells like sweat socks and beef jerky.
Clumps of kids squeezed through the halls on their way to fifth period. So there I was, surrounded by other students, but still, I felt completely alone. This was because I knew I had to speak to Squid about getting him onto the Hot List. Part of me thought that this was ridiculous. I could avoid all of this by just sneaking into the bathroom and writing Squid's name up on the next Hot List.
But there were too many problems with that plan. I could get caught. And I didn't have the sparkly pen. Sure, I could buy something online, probably. But then, there was Squid. Unless he was actually hot, everyone would think my addition was a complete hoax.
I headed over to the south wing hallway where Squid and his friends usually hung out. We had a ten-minute break after fourth period, so a lot of people stuck by their lockers.