Part 12 – After Easter

School started again next Tuesday. David kept his promise, he had finished the essay. He let me read it over, so I guessed whatever he had written on Easter day wasn’t a part of it any more. It was a good essay, better than my own, although perhaps a little more controversial. I had the feeling his subject would not please Mrs. Young. The assignment had been Easter. He had written about how Easter proved religion was made up, since most religions have some kind of celebration on Easter. He felt it improbable all those things had happened at the same time of the year everywhere in the world, so he claimed some of them must have been made up. Mrs. Young was a passionate Christian.

“Do you really believe this?” I asked him after reading it. He shrugged and shook his head.

“Not all of it, although I’m not fond of a lot of things connected to religion. I’m just trying for another zero from Mrs. Young,” he said and grinned.

“She’s given you zero?” I asked surprised. I had never gotten less than seven for even my worst essays. Charlie got nine and ten for all of her horrible ones.

“Last year, in history, the essay about the French revolution. I wrote about how it would be if the revolution happened in Dale, now. I hanged and took the head off a lot of people she likes, including Mr. and Mrs. Dale, and I put a lot of people in control she despises. She gave me zero.”

“That’s horrible!” I said, really feeling enraged. “That’s a great idea for an essay! I wish I would have thought of it! Another teacher would have encouraged you to start writing fiction or something, with creativity like that!”

David looked really amused by my outrage, but didn’t say anything.

I walked home with Charlie, as usual. She told me all about her great ski trip to the French Alps with Tomas’s family. They were very rich and had a cabin there. I didn’t tell her where I had eaten Easter dinner. I didn’t want more questions, or the whole school to find out.

“By the way, I haven’t seen you since the dance, how did you like it?” she suddenly asked.

“It was OK,” I said.

“You did well on stage, in front of the camera. I wish I could have thought of a joke to tell, it really breaks the tension, and the boredom of thirty girls telling people how great they are! I didn’t think we would be so many. I knew that some girls from Royal Dale would be participating, of course, but I didn’t know all those girls from our school would be. They’re twenty! Two-thirds of the competition! And who are they? Mindy Monroe? And Fiona Tallis? I’ve never even heard of them!”

“Mindy won the junior chess Olympics last year, and Fiona lost her parents in the bombings in London six months ago. She created a foundation for children orphaned by terrorist bombings with most of the money she inherited. She’s having an orphanage built for them in London. She’s going to take in children there from all around the world.”

Charlie looked at me surprised.

“How do you know that?” she asked. I smiled.

“I watch the news,” I said. She frowned.

“Well, neither of them is very pretty, so I don’t really mind. It’s just annoying. A lot less people notice you in such a large group. I wonder who agreed to nominate them. Maybe they paid someone to do it.”

I felt blood rush to my face. I knew I shouldn’t tell her, but I felt like I wasn’t much of a friend if I didn’t.

“Actually, I did,” I said, and regretted it immediately. Charlie’s face of outrage was incredible.

“What!” she shouted, stopping dead. “Why would you do that?!”

“Well, I felt like they deserved it,” I said honestly. “I nominated seven people for the competition, and I think all of them deserve to win. You know what I think about this beauty contest development! How can you be so surprised?”

She stared at me, almost struck dumb.

“Seven!” was all she managed to say. Then she started walking really fast away.

“Charlie, wait!” I called, running after her. She stopped again and turned facing me.

“Stop calling me Charlie!” she shouted. I had expected everything but this to come out of her mouth. “Haven’t you noticed nobody calls me that anymore! My name is Charlotte! Charlie makes it sound like I’m a boy! I’m not a boy!”

I stared at her.

“If I remember correctly, you were the one who asked me to call you that in the first place!” I said, rather hurt by this retort. “If you wanted me to stop you could have just asked!”

“Well, you could have asked if I minded you adding to my competition!” she shouted back.

“Added to your competition! Is winning all you think about?!”

She started walking away again. I followed her.

“Why do you want to win? It’s not like there’s any reward. You don’t get money or things. You don’t get a medal, cup or crown. You just get this piece of paper that says what year you won, and that’s it!” I said. I was mad at her now. She stopped again.

“I know your mom is your idol, and that’s very cute and cutely, but Trish Chang is my idol, and she won that competition two times! The whole country knows who she is now! If I win this competition everybody will know who I am!”

She started walking again. I started following her.

“Leave me alone, Nic, you’re not my friend anymore!” she called. I froze. She started running, and before I knew, she was gone.

She wasn’t waiting for me outside my house the next morning to walk with me to school, like she had done for the past six years. She turned her head away when I walked inside the classroom and pretended I didn’t exist the whole day. Not only that, but suddenly none of my other friends were talking to me. I didn’t know how Charlotte had managed to persuade them I wasn’t their friend any more either, none of them were participating in Young Miss Dale, but Charlotte was the most beautiful and popular girl in school. To be considered her friend was an honour.

“You’ll survive,” David whispered to me while I was staring at the back of Charlottes head. “Her loss, anyway.”

He didn’t know what had happened, but he seemed convinced I had done nothing wrong. I felt a little bit better. At least I had one friend in the world.

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