Linda

One

Another hole rips in my fishnets.

And it's all her fault. Watching her in the crowded hall, I don't realize I'm caught on some asshole's zipper. I try to free myself from his backpack as the asshole's movements tear the material more and more. He gives me a dirty look and runs off, leaving a huge gap in my stockings. They're the back-seamed kind—my favorite. The only kind I don't intentionally rip.

But I can sacrifice them for her.

Anything is worth just one glance at her perfect doll face. Her almond-shaped eyes, rosy cheeks, and best of all, her small, pert nose. Pearly white teeth she flashes at everyone—but she does it shyly, so I guess it's not exactly flashing.

On a different day, a cloudier day, I step in a puddle and splash mud all over my worn-out left boot. She's relieved I didn't get mud on her. Of course. How could I stain porcelain? She smiles and says, "Sorry!" Then she keeps walking; and I, in a reverie, lodge my only clean boot in about half a foot of mud, pissed off by this point.

But that's why I like walking home "with" Linda so much. There's always a chance something like this will happen.

Every time I set eyes on her loveliness, I proceed to take out my sketchbook and add some lines. I can't get her nose right. I've only seen one other nose like that, and before, I never believed it could ever be real. It's in a book of perfect noses—perfect noses no one can truly have. Movie stars pay millions for it, but it never suits their faces, and it will eventually collapse.

In our English class, I can't look at her face, only her tight blonde curls. I sit in the back of the room, which is an advantage: this way, no one can see my drawing.

I only look up from my sketchbook when I hear the teacher announcing we're doing a project.

But I don't care, and I'm about to look down again—when I hear that Linda is my partner.

I wish I could jump up and down in joy. On the inside, I'm squealing. Linda as my partner. It's a rather nice prospect.

And as she turns around to see me, and I quickly stow my sketchbook in my backpack, I feel the shame set in. I, unworthy I, with my trashy miniskirt, frizzy hair, and ripped stockings, am going to work with this divine creature.

"Hey, I'm Linda," she says.

We've never spoken before. But I feel like my most intimate friend is introducing herself.

"I know," I mumble.

Duh, I think.

"You're like . . . Janet, right?"

No. Jane.

I notice she's not wearing lip gloss, and her lips look slightly dry and discolored. A strand of hair falls in the middle of them, creating a line to frame her face.

"Yeah," I nod. "Janet."

"I can do most of the work if you want me to. I have an A in this class."

Oh, Linda, so good, so kind, so selfless. Linda with her thin sweater framing her bony shoulders and tying between her proportionate breasts, which I, a triple D, envy. I want to hack mine off. But I don't want plastic surgery, no matter how much I hate myself. No matter how much I hate being this atrocious female.

She's not staring at my breasts, and they are rather visible due to the tank top that isn't quite meant for my body type.

"No, we'll do equal work," I say. My voice is scratchy, so unlike her soft one.

"Are you any good at this?" she says skeptically.

Not bad. I still have a C, but it's because I never do my work. I'll do it for Linda, though.

I shrug.

"Can you help with the poster at least?"

"I'll make the poster," I say. "The whole thing. And do some of the research."

"No, I like research."

Linda. So intelligent, so plain—but we have to collaborate. I want her to come to my house to work on it. This is my chance to get closer to her. We can't do everything separately. I want her in my bedroom.

And eventually my bed.

That is, after she tiptoes through the mess on my floor that I know will offend her perfectionist self.

Poor, innocent, straight Linda. I want to do terrible things to her.