Tonight the Streets Are Ours / Page 6

Page 6


She looked at all the past years’ dolls. Each one had a little placard that summed up her identity in a short phrase. There was Tabitha, of course, though without the dirt stains of Arden’s version. Tabitha’s placard said she was “graceful and inspiring.” The Jenny Doll was “brave and committed.” Katelyn was “quick-witted and fun-loving.” But the Arden Doll’s placard described her in this way:

“Arden is recklessly loyal.”

Arden looked into her doll’s eyes and knew without a doubt that her identity was the best one of all.

For a while there was talk of making a Lindsey friend doll, too, since Lindsey’s character was such a big hit in the Arden stories. But within a few months, the idea was dropped, and the Just Like Me Dolls Company moved on to picking the girl of the next year. Lindsey didn’t seem to mind. Arden had given her a free vacation to Disney World. And Lindsey had given Arden the opportunity to be a doll.

To both girls, this trade-off seemed more than fair.

Arden gets more than she bargained for

Four hours had passed since Arden had been called into Principal Vanderpool’s office. Four hours since the principal asked her to explain the baggie of marijuana in her locker. Four hours since she looked him square in the eyes and admitted it: yes, those drugs were hers. Yes, she was guilty.

Now they were both waiting for Arden’s father to show up and escort her home. A principal can’t just release a known drug user into the world, of course. It can’t be done. There are protocols.

When the school day ended, Lindsey came flying into the reception area outside Vanderpool’s office, where Arden was sitting, reading a book under Mr. Winchell’s watchful eye.

“Oh my God,” Lindsey said, flinging herself onto a plastic chair beside Arden’s. “I am so, so, so—”

“I’ll be okay,” Arden cut in, casting an eye toward the eavesdropping secretary. “It’s my fault. I’m the total idiot who decided to bring drugs into school. I’ll bear the consequences.”

Lindsey paused. “Are you kidding?” she asked.

Arden shook her head. That was what she had told their principal. Whether he believed her, given her squeaky-clean record, was beside the point. All the evidence pointed toward her. He had a crime, he had a confession, justice would be done.

Besides, why wouldn’t he believe her? Who would lie about such a thing?

“Wow,” Lindsey said, and suddenly she laughed, the carefree laugh of someone who has just been caught by an unanticipated parachute when she thought she was plummeting out of the sky to her death.

But it was Arden’s parachute Lindsey was using, so Arden didn’t laugh. “Why the hell did you bring pot to school?” Arden whispered, so quietly that Mr. Winchell’s hearing aid would never make out her words.

“To smoke it?” Lindsey replied in a small voice.

Arden rolled her eyes. “Linds,” she said, “go home. Honestly, I’ve got this.”

So Lindsey hugged her, and she went home.

But the longer Arden sat waiting for her father, the school emptying out around her, the less confident she became. The thing was, she didn’t want to miss three days or more of school; she’d fall behind in everything (especially Spanish). She didn’t play any sports, that was true, but she did stage crew—would she be forced to quit that? And what would her classmates think of her after this? Naomi, Kirsten, all of her other friends—not to mention Chris.

But this was selfish thinking. Arden knew she could live without the spring musical. She could live if she never figured out how to conjugate a single verb in a foreign language. The one thing she couldn’t live with was Lindsey’s misery.

What had become abundantly clear to Arden over the past month was this: There were people in this world who didn’t know how to take care of others. There were people who walked away even when they’d made a promise to stand by you. There were people who threw around the word love but only acted on it when it was convenient for them.

And Arden was not one of those people.

It was nearly six p.m. by the time her father finally showed up to collect her. The custodian had already come through the office to take out the recycling and trash, and Mr. Winchell kept shooting Arden death glares, as if it were all her fault that he was still at work at a time when he would have otherwise been already chowing down on the early bird special at Mamma Luciana’s Pasta Shack.

When her father arrived, he was wearing his business suit and carrying his briefcase, and he looked annoyed. “What’s going on here? Arden, I got two messages at work saying you’re in trouble and they’re going to be taking ‘disciplinary action.’ I had to call Roman’s after-school teacher and beg her to let him stay late. What on God’s green earth is this about?”

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