Looking back, Bobby hadn’t acted that different that day, or even that week. The first weird thing had happened at lunch a few weeks later. Maggie and her friends had been all sitting at their usual table with Tommy, Abby and Artie Souter—identical twins who looked like matching blond supermodels—Caroline, who was her best friend in the world, and a few other assorted football players and cheerleaders.
Maggie snapped her can of Diet Coke open, watching Bobby shovel tacos down his throat with envy. She was monitoring her calorie intake like a chicken hawk observing a pen full of hens. Not only was this new cheerleading uniform making her incredibly aware of her figure, but her homecoming dress had accidentally been ordered in a size zero—where Maggie normally wore a two—and there wasn’t enough time to buy a new dress that half the school hadn’t already rejected in their own shopping trips.
To distract herself from the gnawing pain in her stomach, Maggie took another bite of her dressing free salad and chewed slowly, pretending it was pizza. God, she loved pizza so much. It’d been years since she’d had it.
“Bobby, what was with that weird girl talking to you after Chem yesterday?” Caroline asked, her Boston accent softened after spending her entire high school career down in South Carolina. Maggie and Caroline had met in gymnastics class in middle school, and they’d bonded over their love of country music, cheerleading, and carb-free diets.
“Her name’s Chloe, and she’s actually really nice,” Bobby replied evenly.
Maggie remembered Chloe from one of her English classes. The girl never spoke to anyone other than the teacher, and once she had read a poem that had lots of references to the dark wings of ravens. It was all very strange. And she wore way too much black. Okay, and the real kicker was that Chloe had laughed at her a few weeks ago when Maggie had written an essay about how the proudest moment of her life was winning Miss Dixie Bell last year.
“I just don’t understand people like her,” Maggie started to say, flattening her hand on her stomach as it growled loudly. Hopefully no one had heard. “Like, it’s just so selfish to be so grumpy all the time. Everyone hurts. Everyone has bad things happen to them. Maybe people should just focus on the wonderful things in their lives and stop dwelling on the negativity.”
“Here, here, Maggie May!” Tommy raised his can of Coke over his head. The entire table laughed.
Giggling, Maggie continued. She was on a roll. “And, I mean, really, bless her heart, but how is that much black flattering on anyone’s complexion? Maybe we can give her a makeover!” Maggie loved makeovers. They were the best. Maybe they could take her shopping and help her do her makeup and—
Just then, Maggie heard a sharp intake of breath behind her. When she turned, she saw a girl with pale skin and long dark hair standing behind them. It was Chloe. Why did she look so upset? Maybe she didn’t hear the “bless her heart” part. Everyone knew that saying “bless her heart” balanced out anything negative that followed because it originated in a good place. Her momma always said that people needed a good dose of the truth, but they needed to know it came from the heart.
“I just—I just wanted—here. Here’s your half of the outline.” Chloe’s sharp voice matched her movements as she shoved a piece of paper into Bobby’s hand and then turned to rush back inside the school. Maggie had examined her closely in those ten seconds, trying to make sense of a girl who seemed to think black eye shadow was appropriate for the entire eyelid. The only spot anyone needed black eye shadow was in the outer crease of their eyelid and even then, it should be blended to near oblivion. Her momma considered black eye shadow appropriate only for strippers and rock star groupies.
The table fell silent for a minute. Maggie’s mouth curved into a nervous smile. Bobby’s green eyes cut in her direction. “Really, Maggie? That was mean of you.”
Maggie had never heard Bobby use that tone with her, and she wasn’t sure how to respond. Her chest tightened. “I wasn’t trying to be mean. I was just talking in general…like, how Momma always says that you should look your best so others are happy to…” She trailed off, shrinking under the disappointment in Bobby’s eyes.
She didn’t want Chloe to think she was being mean for no reason. Maybe Maggie needed to go chase her down and explain. “You know what? I’ll just go apologize—” Maggie stood up to follow her, but Bobby interrupted again.
Instead of the sharp tone he’d just used, now he sounded tired. “Don’t worry about it. Let me go talk to her.” He smiled, but it was a weird smile. Like it didn’t reach all the way up to his eyes.
Maggie tried to smile back, but she couldn’t get her lips to lift. “Are you sure? I can just go and—”
“It’s fine, Maggie. I’ll be back in a few.” Bobby stood up to walk away, and then he stopped and came back to squeeze her shoulder. Normally he’d say goodbye with at least a little kiss, but his grip on her shoulder was more how he interacted with the football team. Maggie didn’t like the feelings it brought, so she focused on his beautiful eyes, chiseled features, and sweet smile, and she thought he had the kind of face a girl could look at the rest of her life and be happy.
That was the day she began to lose him.