Excerpted from Doormat by Kelly McWilliams Copyright © 2004 by Kelly McWilliams. Excerpted by permission of Laurel Leaf, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
My best friend thinks she's pregnant.
Personally, I think Melissa's wrong, but it's not my body. Teen pregnancy is so melodramatic: lonely, living off the streets and welfare, dragging your baby from city to city and everywhere but on your acid trips. No, fourteen-year-olds don't get pregnant anywhere except in the newspaper and on TV. I mean, what would Aunt Sheila say?
"Oh, drama," she'd sigh, and flip her curly hair.
So why am I so worried about this? Because worry is contagious, I guess. Melissa is having a heart attack about it:
"What should I do, Jaime? Should I ask my mother? Will she hate me?"
Or worse: "What about my modeling career?"
And then she'll cry, and the contagion has spread.
Now, here's the truth about Melissa's modeling career--she doesn't have one, and though I love her dearly, I doubt she ever will. And that's not to say she's not beautiful; who am I to talk? It's her attitude that's the problem. She expects life on a silver platter with oysters and an Amex, and her god-awful parents hate the very idea of her doing anything so superficial and are working with all their authoritative might to stop that career before it begins. I remember discussing this with her over the summer in depth:
"I want to be a model," she said.
"Okay. But why?"
"Because I want to be beautiful!"
"Don't you think there's more to life than that?" Even to me it sounded half-baked. I knew Melissa wouldn't go for it.
"Who are you, Gandhi? Give me a break! I want to be a model. Who says there even has to be a reason? The point is I need your help because my parents aren't going for it."
"What do you mean, not going for it?"
"Oh, you know my mother."
Translation--they'd be shopping at Target for new china any day now, and they'd need the carpets professionally cleaned.
Melissa is under the impression that she hates her mother. She tends to get stuck in a swamp of pity at the mention of the M-word, and that makes for uncomfortable silences. I don't think I hate my mother, myself. But I can't be completely sure; I haven't really thought about it since sometime around the fourth grade.
"Well, what do you think I can do about it?" I asked.
"Get me engagements! Jobs!" she said. Shouted, if you want to know the truth.
"Yeah, you know, photo shoots at clothing stores and places, obviously. You can be my agent! Agents get half the money, you know. And we could go all sorts of places together and meet all sorts of famous people. . . ."
"Melissa . . ."
"Just ask around at the malls and stuff, okay?"
Okay, let me start from the very beginning. I was sitting alone in the cafeteria at lunchtime Friday, minding my own business. Mostly I was pretending to be invisible, because, believe it or not, it's not easy to sit alone in the hostile environment of a school cafeteria. In spite of my best efforts to make it look like I was waiting for someone (foot on chair, checking my watch periodically) and thus increase my chances for survival, I could tell that no one was quite buying it.
Yeah, sure, their eyebrows said.
If there's one thing I hate, it's sassy eyebrows.
To top it all off, I'd been disturbed all day because of an unsettling event that occurred during second period. We filled out one of those career planning sheets in health class, but it wasn't the usual What's Your Favorite Subject type survey. Instead, I found myself answering questions like "What are you passionate about?" "What do you love?" "What is your most powerful dream?" What disturbed me was the number of questions that I had to leave blank.
Before I could think on it too heavily, however, Melissa ambled in at the back of the cafeteria food line. She looked over the serving counter doubtfully, kind of sniffed at it, and to my relief got out of line and walked straight over to me without stopping to pick up the apparently unsatisfactory chicken nuggets.
"Finally!" I said when she sat down. "What took you?"
"Nothing," she said absently.
I rolled my eyes. She wanted me to ask. I ate in silence for a minute, deciding whether or not to play along with her.
"So what's wrong?" I finally asked. Don't say I never do anything for her.
"Do I look fat to you?" she asked.
"Not just a little?"
"What about my cheeks? Are they puffy?"
"Have I been eating more lately?"
"Melissa, what is it?"
"I think I'm pregnant. Can you help me?"
So that's the story. Girl tells best friend she's pregnant. Best friend saves the world.
Under normal circumstances, I would simply notify the nearest adult as quickly as possible and let him or her handle it. Unfortunately, Melissa's last words have been stuck in my brain for the past six hours of my life, like a sappy song you hear on the radio.
"Can you help me?"
Why me? What can I do? I'm fourteen years old, for Christ's sakes! I don't know or care what I'm passionate about, I don't have any dreams, and I sure as hell don't know what to do about a baby.
After school, it took all my willpower to pick up the phone and dial her number.
I get the answering machine. I hang up.
From the Hardcover edition.