Gillian stood perfectly still and watched David disappear around a corner.
(It's not time for the plan yet, kid. Now buck up. A cheery face is worth diamonds.)
Gillian tried to put on a cheery face.
The strange day continued. In each class, Gillian appealed to the teacher for a new book. In each class,
she was bombarded with offers of notes and other help. And through it all Angel whispered in her ear,
always suggesting just the right thing to say to each person. He was witty, irreverent, occasionally
cutting-and so was Gillian.
She had an advantage, she realized. Since nobody had ever noticed her before, it was almost like being
a new girl. She could be anything she wanted to be, present herself as anyone, and be believed.
(Like Cinderella at the ball. The mystery princess.) Angel's voice was amused but tender.
In journalism class, Gillian found herself beside Daryl Novak, a languid girl with sloe eyes and drooping
contemptuous lashes. Daryl the Rich Girl, Daryl the World-weary World Traveler. She talked to Gillian
as if Gillian knew all about Paris and Rome and California.
At lunch, Gillian hesitated as she walked into the cafeteria. Usually she sat with Amy in an obscure
corner at the back. But recently Eugene had been sitting with Amy, and up front she could see a group
that included Amanda the Cheerleader, Kim the Gymnast, and others from The Clique. David and Tanya
were at the edge. (Do I sit with them? Nobody asked me.) (Not with them, my little rutabaga. But near
them. Sit at the end of that table just beside them. Don't look at them as you walk by. Look at your
lunch. Start eating it.)
Gillian had never eaten her lunch alone before-or at least not in a public place. On days Amy was
absent, if she couldn't find one of the few other juniors she felt comfortable with, she snuck into the
library and ate there.
In the old days she would have felt horribly exposed, but now she wasn't really alone; she had Angel
cracking jokes in her ear. And she had a new confidence. She could almost see herself eating, calm and
indifferent to stares, thoughtful to the point of being dreamy. She tried to make her movements a little
languid, like Daryl the Rich Girl's.
(And I hope Amy doesn't think I'm snubbing her. I mean, it's not as if she's back there alone. She's got
(Yeah. We're gonna have to talk about Amy sometime, kid. But right now you're being paged. Smile
and be gracious.)
"Jill! Earth to Jill!"
"Hey, Jill, c'mon over."
They wanted her. She was moving her lunch over to their table, and she wasn't spilling anything and she
wasn't falling as she slid in. She was little and graceful, thistledown light in her movements, and they were
surging around her to form a warm and friendly bulwark.
And she wasn't afraid of them. That was the most wonderful thing of all. These kids who'd seemed to
her like stars in some TV show about teenagers, were real people who got crumbs on themselves and
made jokes she could understand.
Gillian had always wondered what they found so funny when they were laughing together. But now she
knew it was just the heady atmosphere, the knowledge that they were special. It made it easy to laugh at
everything. She knew David, sitting quietly there with Tanya, could see her laughing.
She could hear other voices occasionally, from people on the fringes of her group, people on the outside
looking in. Mostly bright chatter and murmurs of admiration. She thought she heard her name mentioned.
... And then she focused on the words. "I heard her mom's a drunk." They sounded horribly loud and
dear to Gillian, standing out against the background noise. She could feel her whole skin tingling with
shock and she lost track of the story Kim the Gymnast was telling.
(Angel-who said that? Was it about me-my mom?) She didn't dare look behind her.
"-started drinking a few years ago and having these hallucinations-"
This time the voice was so loud that it cut through the banter of Gillian's group. Kim stopped in
mid-sentence. Bruce the Athlete's smile faltered. An awkward silence fell.
Gillian felt a wave of anger that made her dizzy. (Who said that? I'll kill them-)
(Calm down! Calm down. That's not the way to handle it at all.) (But-)
(I said, calm down. Look at your lunch. No, at your lunch. Now say-and make your voice absolutely
cool-"I really hate rumors, don't you? I don't know what kind of people start them.")
Gillian breathed twice and obeyed, although her
voice wasn't absolutely cool. It had a little tremor.
"I don't know either," a new voice said. Gillian
glanced up to see that David was on his feet, his
face hard as he surveyed the table behind her as
if looking for the person who'd spoken. "But I think they're pretty sick and they should get a life."
There was the cold glint in his eyes that had given him his reputation as a tough guy. Gillian felt as if a
hand had steadied her. Gratitude rushed through her-and a longing that made her bite down on her lip.
"I hate rumors, too," J.Z. Oberlin said in her absent voice. J. Z. the Model was the one who looked like
a Calvin Klein ad, breathlessly sexy and rather blank, but right now she seemed oddly focused.
"Somebody was putting around the rumor last year that I tried to kill myself. I never did find out who
started it." Her hazy blue-green eyes were narrowed.
And then everyone was talking about rumors, and people who spread rumors, and what scum they
were. The group was rallying around Gillian.
But it was David who stood up for me first, she thought.
She had just looked over at him, trying to catch his eye, when she heard the tinkling noise.
It was almost musical, but the kind of sound that draws attention immediately in a cafeteria. Somebody
had broken a glass. Gillian, along with everyone else, glanced around to see who'd done it.
She couldn't see anybody. No one had the right expression of dismay, no one was focused on anything
definite. Everybody was looking around in search mode.
Then she heard it again, and two people standing near the cafeteria doors looked down and then up.
Above the doors, far above, was a semi-circular window in the red brick. As Gillian stared at the
window she realized that light was reflecting off it oddly, almost prismatically. There seemed to be crazy
rainbows in the glass...
And something was sparkling down, falling like a few specks of snow. It hit the ground and tinkled, and
the people by the door stared at it on the cafeteria floor. They looked puzzled.
Realization flashed on Gillian. She was on her feet, but the only words that she could find were, "Oh, my
"Get out! It's all going to go! Get out of there!" It was David, waving at the people under the window.
He was running toward them, which was stupid, Gillian thought numbly, her heart seeming to stop.
Other people were shouting. Cory and Amanda and Bruce-and Tanya. Kim the Gymnast was shrieking.
And then the window was going, chunks of it falling almost poetically, raining and crumbling, shining and
crashing. It fell and fell and fell. Gillian felt as if she were watching an avalanche in slow motion.
At last it was over, and the window was just an arch-shaped hole with jagged teeth clinging to the
edges. Glass had flown and bounced and skittered all over the cafeteria, where it lay like hailstones. And
people from tables amazingly distant were examining cuts from ricocheting bits.
But nobody had been directly underneath, and nobody seemed seriously hurt.
(Thanks to David.) Gillian was still numb, but now with relief. (He got them all out of the way in time.
Oh, God, he isn't hurt, is he?)
(He's fine. And what makes you think he did it all alone? Maybe I had some part. I can do that, you
know-put it into people's heads to do things. And they never even know I'm doing it.) Angel's voice
(Huh? You did that? Well, that was really nice of you.) Gillian was watching David across the room,
watching Tanya examine his arm, nod, shrug, look around.
He's not hurt. Thank heaven. Gillian felt so relieved it was almost painful.
It was then that it occurred to her to wonder what had happened.
That window-before the glass fell it had looked just like the mirror in her bathroom. Evenly shattered
from side to side, spidery cracks over every inch of the surface.
The bathroom mirror had cracked while Tanya was being catty about Gillian's room. Now Gillian
remembered the last thing she'd wanted to ask Angel last night. It had been about how the mirror came
to do that.
This window ... it had started falling a few minutes after someone insulted Gillian's mother. Nobody had