What’s the worst that could happen?
Mona is a smart girl and figured everything out a long time ago. She had to. She didn’t have a choice. When your parents are uber-celebrities and you graduate from high school at fifteen, finish college at eighteen, and start your PhD program at nineteen, you don’t have time for distractions outside of your foci. Even fun is scheduled. Which is why Abram, her brother’s best friend, is such an irritant.
Abram is a talented guy, a supremely gifted musician, and has absolutely nothing figured out, nor does he seem to care. He does what he feels, when he feels, and—in Mona’s opinion—he makes her feel entirely too much.
Where to read more of the Hypothesis Series
Book 1 ATTRACTION (ends in a cliffhanger!)
Book 2 HEAT (ends in a cliffhanger!)
Book 3 CAPTURE (no cliffhanger)
Book 4 MOTION (ends in a cliffhanger!)
Book 5 SPACE (ends in a cliffhanger!)
Book 6 TIME (no cliffhanger)
Release date: February 11, 2019
Print pages: 253
* BingeBooks earns revenue from qualifying purchases as an Amazon Associate as well as from other retail partners.
Listen to a sample
“You are receiving a collect call from ACCEPT THE CHARGES, MONA! at Cretin County Jail. If you accept the charges, press one. If not, disconnect,” the robot—apparently the love child between Alexa and Baymax—announced via my cell phone, the sound an odd amalgamation of her voice and his cadence.
No. Strike that. Inaccurate.
Most of the words were announced by the robot. But the words “ACCEPT THE CHARGES, MONA!” and the voice that whisper-shouted them belonged to my twin sister, Lisa. I didn’t press one and I didn’t disconnect. But I did stare at nothing, probably making my about-to-sneeze face, and attempted to parse through what I’d just heard.
“Is everything okay?”
Dr. Payton’s perfectly reasonable question hijacked my attention and reminded me that I wasn’t alone. I was in a restaurant. The planetary astrophysicist’s eyebrows inched upward as we stared at each other, his last bite of steak left forgotten on the tip of his fork.
Fraught and feeling illogically harassed, I sputtered, “I don’t know.”
This was one of the very few times in my nineteen years that I’d said I don’t know. I didn’t like not knowing. I preferred I’ll find out, I’ll figure it out, or I’ll know soon.
If he’d asked me the same question just thirty seconds ago, I would’ve known how to answer. Prior to my cell ringing seconds ago, today had been a great day. I’d meditated as soon as I’d awoken. I’d journaled. I’d located and eaten a perfectly ripe avocado for breakfast. The best. Avocados in Chicago and Cambridge, Mass were so seldom perfectly ripe, or they were ripe for only 4.4 seconds. Whereas California had all the ripe avocados.
Traffic on the I-5 had been light while my driver transported me from the Pasadena Marriott to the Palomar Observatory. I’d spent most of my day elbows deep with my best friends: the gorgeous symmetry and chaos of relativistic equations, infrared array imaging, and spectroscopy data.
Late afternoon, I’d gone to the dentist for a teeth cleaning, X-rays, and exam where I’d been told that my home regimen of flossing and brushing was exemplary. Praise from the dentist always put me in a good mood.
Presently, I was having dinner with Dr. Poe Payton, a second-year fellow in planetary astrophysics who was as intelligent as he was handsome and charming, which was considerably. Not that his handsomeness or ability to charm was relevant. As with all my prospective colleagues, nothing was relevant about Dr. Payton other than his ability to keep up.
Afterward, my plans included swimming in the hotel pool, showering, and finally an hour of scheduled fiction reading before bed. Although, now that I was living on my own, and finally free of Dr. Steward’s daily oversight, I sometimes read for an hour and a half.
“You are receiving a collect call from ACCEPT THE CHARGES, MONA! at Cretin County Jail. If you accept the charges, press one. If not, disconnect,” the Alexa-Baymax hybrid announced again, startling me a second time.
Flustered, I pressed one and brought the phone back to my ear. “Uh, hello? Hello?”
“Thank God!” My twin sounded far away, like the connection was bad or she was speaking in a tunnel.
“Lisa?” I whisper-asked, my eyes darting to Dr. Payton’s curious and concerned expression.
“First, don’t freak out. Second, I don’t have a lot of time, so don’t ask questions. Just do what I say, okay? I’ve been arrested.”
Oh God. Oh my God! Okay . . . OH MY GOD!
Clutching my forehead, heart racing, I dropped my gaze to the napkin on my lap. “Are you okay? I—what? Where are—”
“Listen,” she said firmly, “I need you to listen to me.”
“Should I call—”
“No! Don’t call anyone. I already have a lawyer, and—if everything goes according to plan—I should be released by next week.”
My eyes darted up, snagging on Dr. Payton, who was now looking at me with some alarm.
He asked, “What can I do?” But this time he mouthed his question.
I didn’t answer, I couldn’t. Lisa was still talking in my ear, my mind accelerating to a million miles per second.
“. . . so I need you to go home and pretend to be me. Otherwise, they’ll know what happened and I’ll be so, so screwed.”
I lifted a finger, motioning for Dr. Payton to give me a minute, and turned my body toward the window on my right. “Uh, pardon?”
“Mona, focus.” My typically imperturbable sister’s voice trembled. “You have to get to Chicago—tonight if possible—and be me.”
Go to Chicago? Impossible. But one thing at a time.
Taking a deep breath, I closed my eyes and asked the most pertinent question. “First, tell me if you’re okay. Are you hurt?”
Lisa heaved a watery-sounding sigh. “I’m not hurt. But, no. I’m not okay.”
Lisa. My lungs constricted, I rubbed my sternum with my fingertips. We weren’t particularly close, not anymore, but right now that didn’t matter. This was my sister, my twin. There’d been a time when I’d thought we shared one-half of the same heart. Our brother Leo used to tell us this story and we’d believed him.
No. Strike that. Inaccurate. I’d believed him. Lisa had never been as naïve or gullible or susceptible to fictions and romanticism as me.
“What can I do?” I asked, opening my eyes.
“Get to Chicago. Pretend to be me for a week. And—”
“I can’t. I’m in California for my visit with Caltech. I’m interviewing for their PhD program.”
“Oh please. You mean you’re interviewing them. Everyone wants you. They wouldn’t care if you left, they wouldn’t care if you did a striptease on the dean’s desk while snorting coke off his letter opener. Hell, he’d probably love it.”
“The dean is a heterosexual female.”
Lisa grunted. “Whatever! Please, please, please listen, Mona. This is serious. This is life and death for me. You have to wear my clothes, my makeup, sleep in my room, act like me. Mom and Dad can’t know I’m in . . . shit. I can’t believe this happened.”
I shook my head. “Lisa, no. No. Listen to yourself. This is crazy, even for you. Mom and Dad will know I’m me.”
“Obviously, Mona!” she whispered harshly. “But you don’t have to fool Mom and Dad. They’re still in Greece. Abram is watching the house. You just have to fool him until I get there.”
She was talking so fast, I was having trouble keeping up. “Who is Abram?”
“Abram. You know, Abram, Leo’s friend? You don’t know Abram? Oh, good”—she sounded relieved—“in fact, that’s great! I’ve only sorta met Abram once, so this’ll be super easy. Pretend like you don’t remember him or anything about the night we met, which is actually pretty accurate, because I don’t remember much. We’ll switch places before your BFF Dr. Steward arrives, and no one will know about this nightmare.”
Overwhelmed by my confusion and her sense of urgency, I couldn’t organize my thoughts into any logical order, asking questions as they occurred to me. “Wait, Dr. Steward is coming?” Dr. Steward had lived with me and served as my guardian for most of my undergrad; this arrangement had lasted until I’d turned eighteen. “And why do I have to go to Chicago if Mom and Dad are in Greece? Shouldn’t I come to where you are and—”
She made a short growling sound. “They’re planning to cut me off, okay? They said if I wasn’t home by tomorrow, and if I didn’t hand over my phone to Abram when I got there, and if I don’t cut off all contact with Tyler, then they’d close my bank accounts and credit cards and that’s it.”
I struggled anew with this information, mostly because I thought Lisa had already ended all contact with Tyler. Our family had been living the last few months under the assumption that she was safe from his influence, that they were finally over-over. She’d sworn it was over. She’d promised.
“You’re still with Tyler?”
An epic scoff-snort sounded from the other end of the call. “Not anymore. God, never again. Not after this. I am so done with that lying, cheating, massive piece of shit!”
I had to press the cell closer to my ear to hear her. Unlike most people, both Lisa and I became quieter when we were angry rather than louder.
“Lisa, this is crazy. I can’t be you.” I kept my voice low, turning in the chair as far from Dr. Payton as I could. “No one will buy it.” We hadn’t been raised together past the age of eleven. Both my older brother and I had stayed home with private tutors—he studied music, I concentrated on math and science—while Lisa had been sent to boarding school.
“They will buy it. We’re physically identical. All you need is a makeover.”
I struggled with how to phrase my next objection, but ultimately decided I didn’t have time to be tactful. “Lisa, I love you, but I wouldn’t know the first thing about acting like you. I don’t know you.” Most of what I knew about my sister’s life was deduced from chance encounters with the gossip sections of newspapers and magazines.
Exotica and DJ Tang’s youngest daughter spotted at New York hot spot
Exotica and DJ Tang’s youngest daughter in trouble again
Exotica and DJ Tang’s youngest daughter rumored to be dating Pirate Orgy’s front man, Tyler
Exotica and DJ Tang’s youngest daughter partying at fashion week
Exotica and DJ Tang’s youngest daughter wrecks Tesla
“That’s not true.” She sounded exasperated rather than hurt.
“I call you once a week, you never pick up. And when you respond it’s with a text message.”
“Mona, you never returned my letters when I was sent to boarding school, so what’s the big deal?”
What? Why was she bringing this up? Again! Lisa had been bringing this up to excuse treating me poorly for years. It’s how she justified her jokes and pranks, none of which were funny.
“I did return your letters. How many times—”
“I’m not going to argue with you about this again. You didn’t return my letters, which is why I stopped sending them. So, again, why does it matter if I text you back?”
“Because when we do talk on the phone, it’s for less than five minutes. You think my life is boring and we have nothing in common.” I tried—and succeeded—to keep emotion out of my voice. This was my superpower, a skill I’d honed as a fifteen-year-old girl, entering a field dominated by not fifteen-year-old girls. “You were right. We have nothing in common. And now you want me to pretend to be you? It won’t work.”
For better or worse, I had more in common with my musician older brother than I did with my twin.
“Yes. It will. Like I said, Abram has only met me once, and he didn’t seem impressed, and I hardly remember it. So as long as you’re wearing my clothes and your impersonation is passable, he’ll leave you alone and we’ll be golden. I’ve already set everything up with Gabby. She’s expecting your call. She’ll meet you in Chicago, dress you to look like me before you go to the house.”
Gabby. My nostrils flexed, flared with annoyance (I hated it when they did that).
Gabby was Lisa’s best friend and used to be mine, once upon a time. The three of us had been inseparable as kids. We used to pretend we were triplets, with Gabby being our long-lost sister. Noteworthy, Gabby and Lisa had always been more interested in pretty dresses and painting their nails than I had; and I loved reading in a way they both eschewed; but our differences hadn’t seemed to matter at the time. I would paint my nails right along with them, and they indulged my love of stories by listening to me read out loud.
Things started to change around the age of nine. Gabby and Lisa’s interests moved firmly from imaginary games involving being dragon tamers—or being astronauts, or being stranded on a desert island—to imaginary games involving being famous and important in the real world, calling the games I wanted to play “baby stuff.”
But pretending within the confines of “the real world” made no sense to me. It’s like they were speaking a different language, one I couldn’t understand, and one that seemed horribly . . . well, boring.
Our official friendship separation (Gabby and Lisa versus Mona) could be traced to one night when we were eleven. I’d alerted our nanny that my sister and our friend had snuck some whiskey from the liquor cabinet after asking them repeatedly to put it back. Lisa had been sent to boarding school not long after, but when she was home, I’d played on my own and they’d been virtually inseparable.
Fascinatingly, eight years later, Gabby still held a grudge—let me repeat, for eight years—related to my snitching on her when we were eleven. I’d never snitched again. On anyone. For anything. Ever.
Understatement: I’d learned my lesson about snitching.
I’d tried (and failed) to get in their good graces for years after the whiskey-snitching incident until Gabby introduced Lisa to Tyler. Now Gabby’s dislike of me was entirely mutual. I didn’t know how to forgive her for introducing my twin to that scumbag.
Conclusion: At this point, I worked under the assumption that Gabby was quite possibly mentally unhinged and strongly disliked—if not outright hated—me.
But back to now and Lisa being in jail and me being shocked and awed and making my about-to-sneeze face.
Lisa continued, “When you get there, all you have to do is wear designer clothes, eyeliner, and make terrible life decisions.” She laughed, the sound both hysterical and sad. “Plus, you have to do this for me. You don’t have a choice. Unless you plan to do nothing—again—and let Mom and Dad disown me.”
What the what?
“Doing nothing? What are you—”
“Forget it, Mona. Now isn’t the time. If you care about me at all, go to Chicago and pretend for Abram until I get there.”
“But who is Abram? Why is he at the house? Why would Mom and Dad trust him to do this? And how can I—”
“God! Look, I don’t have time to argue with you about this.” Her tone was tired, strained, frazzled. “Are you going to help me or not?”
I wanted to say, This will never work! But when I opened my mouth, no words came out.
“Call Gabby, she’s expecting your call. Go to Chicago. Get a ticket for tonight, okay? My cell phone has been mailed to Chicago and should arrive tomorrow or the next day. If Abram asks you for my phone when you get there, just tell him you left it behind and are having it mailed to you. Sit tight and let your inhibitions go—for once—until I get there.”
“Promise me, Mona. Promise me. I swear, I’ll be so good. I’ll be so fucking good. I’ll go back and finish high school, I’ll never touch drugs again, I’ll never see Tyler again, I’ll be the best sister and daughter, I’ll forgive you for everything, we’ll create a special handshake for when the next NASA thing lands on Jupiter or whatever, I will never call physics boring, and I will make this up to you. I will never, ever lie. But if you don’t do this for me, I’m dead. I’m so, so dead.” Her voice caught on the last sentence, adopting a decidedly watery edge, and that sobered me more than anything else would have.
My sister didn’t cry. Ever. What a messy mess.
“You don’t have to worry about paparazzi or anything like that.” Her breath hitched, and that told me she was now unable to stem the tears. “Gabby hooked me up with the best lawyer, she specializes in this kind of stuff, keeping it out of the papers. This won’t make it out to the press. And you know they only care about the overachievers in the family.”
I resisted the urge to huff and remind her that she was the lucky one, the one the press didn’t follow at all, the one who was able to live her life out of the spotlight. But every time I told her this it just seemed to piss her off.
“They don’t care about me unless I fuck up . . .” she added quietly.
But then she said, “Please.”
The single word sounded so desperate, so broken, it struck a chord deep within me, a bond I’d assumed had dissolved, but now understood had merely been dormant. She hadn’t asked me for anything since we were kids. How could I say no?
“Of course. Yes.” Even though it was complete madness.
“Thank you, thank you. And when I see you, I’ll tell you everything, don’t worry. You won’t be sorry. You are the best sister in the world. I love you!” she said just before the line went dead.
Removing the cell from my ear, I stared at the blank screen, my mind in chaos. I was unsure what to do, or on which problem I should focus.
Am I really going to do this?
Hastily, I made a list of the most basic action items. Getting a ticket to Chicago shouldn’t be a big deal. If I left directly from the restaurant, I could probably catch something tonight, stay in a hotel by O’Hare. I’d call Gabby on the way. Assuming my parents didn’t insist on speaking to me—well, “to me” meaning Lisa—then I might be back in Pasadena by the end of the week.
Am I really going to do this?
“Hey.” Dr. Payton’s soft voice cut through my list making. His wide brown eyes moved over my face, concern etched between his eyebrows. “Hey, is everything okay?”
“I’m sorry. That was rude. I should have left the table,” I said on autopilot, my brain still working through next steps. I felt his eyes on me as I returned my phone to my backpack. His stare felt assessing, but not in the usual way. Usually, when people stared, I knew exactly what they were thinking.
Depending on the person and context, it was either, Isn’t that the girl whose research on Bose-Einstein condensates improved the reliability and power of infrared arrays? Wasn’t she twelve when that happened? Or the person was thinking, Isn’t that one of Exotica and DJ Tang’s daughters? Is that the cool crazy one or the weirdo math prodigy?
“Don’t apologize,” Dr. Payton said unexpectedly, drawing my gaze back to his as he reached a hand across the table and covered mine.
I pulled my fingers away. Immediately. On instinct.
Tangentially, I noted his skin had been warm and that this was the first time he’d touched me other than a handshake. In fact, other than my one friend, Allyn, this was the first time someone had touched me to offer comfort since . . . well, since longer than I could remember.
“What’s wrong?” he asked, his voice gentle and interested. “How can I help?”
“Wrong? Help?” What?
“All the color left your face.” Dr. Payton paused to study me, the intensity of his frown increasing. “Mona, what happened? Who was that?”
Mona? The informality was a bucket of ice water, cutting through the haze of confusion. I blinked at him and the use of my first name. For these last two weeks he’d been Dr. Payton and I’d been Ms. DaVinci, which was how interactions within my world worked. Always.
As the youngest person by far in any given room—and the room was typically full of men with PhDs fighting for prestige, tenure, and grant dollars—I’d learned early and often that informality meant being taken advantage of. It meant being the second or third author instead of the first on a scholarly article of my own original ideas. It meant opening a door to borrowing (i.e. stealing) my work and intellectual property.
Nothing was more sacred or worth protecting in academia than intellectual property, and everyone wanted to take credit for mine.
“Dr. Payton, I’m very sorry to cut our meeting short.” When I stood, he stood, giving me the impression his good manners were ingrained. “I hope we can continue our discussion on Illustris soon, but I have to go.” Once again, I flexed my superpower, removing all emotion from my voice.
Clearly surprised by my coolness, Dr. Payton rocked back on his heels and stuffed his hands in his pockets. “Absolutely. I understand,” he said, though it was obvious he didn’t understand.
Placing my backpack on the chair, I furtively studied him as I zipped and unzipped it, searching for my wallet. I noted the cautious yet concerned way he continued to examine me, at the tense set of his jaw, like he was engaging in an internal debate. I had to swat away a pang of guilt and doubt.
Dr. Payton—Poe—had been nothing but gracious since I’d arrived, but not overbearingly so. Overbearing and overly solicitous faculty had been my experience at the other institutions I’d visited during my quest to find the right PhD program. Even his willingness to collaborate and share, discuss and troubleshoot had been unpretentious. Poe’s ideas and approach were unique and refreshing.
The man was certainly brilliant, seemed to be a genuinely good guy, and I was curious about his thoughts on Illustris, the universe-scale simulation project, which was why I’d agreed to dinner. Yet, tempted as I might be to soften my rules about informality and friendly fraternization with colleagues, I wouldn’t.
“Do you need a ride anywhere?” he asked stiffly, quickly adding, “No pressure. It’s just, my mother would be appalled if I didn’t offer.”
His slight confession, and how he referred to his mother with deference, made me pause my furious zipping. “Thank you. I have a driver.”
He cleared his throat and nodded, seemed to stand straighter. My gaze flickered to his then away, and I dug for my wallet. Finding it, I placed a fifty-dollar bill on the table to cover the cost of my dinner.
“You don’t need to do that.” He frowned, reaching for the money and offering it back to me.
I shook my head and swung my backpack into place on my right shoulder. “My advisor told me I should pay for my own meals during the recruitment process so as to not unduly influence my final decision.”
He flinched subtly, like I’d surprised him again. “I see,” he said, then huffed a little laugh. It was amused, but also sounded a tad incredulous. I got the sense I’d offended him somehow . . .
A renewed wave of flustered urgency crashed over me. I didn’t have time to think about Dr. Payton. I had to call Gabby, get to Chicago, and figure out how to behave like Lisa and not like me.
“I’ll be gone for a few days,” I said, not understanding why I felt the need to explain anything. “There’s been an unexpected emergency. I’ll email Dr. Clarence and the team to let them know.”
“Fine.” He pressed his lips together, a flat line, his expression now neutral.
I hesitated for a split second, knowing I was doing something wrong yet unable to put my finger on what. But exigency—for my sister’s sake—spurred me to move. Giving him a final head nod, I left the restaurant.
With any luck, I’d be in Chicago before midnight.
* * *
“We’re going to have to get you a blowout.” Gabby pursed her lips at the sight of my single braid, sighed dramatically, and marched past me into my hotel room. “And Lisa’s hair is a little shorter I think, so we’ll also need a cut. But the color is fine, she went back to her natural dark brown too, like, I don’t know, a few months ago, when she pretended to split from Tyler. Do you own any makeup at all?”
Turning, I allowed the hotel door to shut behind me and faced my former friend. “Hello, and yes I own makeup.”
Of note, Gabby’s real name was Lyndsay. Gabby was a nickname she’d earned because she talked too much and had no filter, always saying whatever popped into her head. This worked for her because her parents were massively wealthy movie stars and had no problem bailing her out of whatever trouble she—and her mouth—found herself in.
Ignoring my greeting, she set a bag on the bed. “I bet it’s the wrong kind of makeup. Whatever. There’s a Sephora on the way to your house, we’ll go there. Lisa said you don’t know how to do your eyes, so they can teach you there. Lisa never shows her face without mascara and liner, so make sure you do that every day. And here”—she gestured to the bag—“I brought some of Lisa’s clothes from the last time she spent the night at my house. We got soooo drunk. And it was tequila drunk, not vodka tonic drunk, you know what I mean?” Gabby laughed and gave me a commiserating look.
I didn’t know what she meant, but I could extrapolate. Regardless, I did not return her look.
Her amusement vanished.
“Anyway.” She paired the single word with an eyebrow lift, a sure sign of exasperation. “This should have everything you need for now. Feel free to thank me at any point here.”
No thanks was forthcoming, but she already knew that.
I hadn’t returned to my hotel in Los Angeles last night. There was no point in packing clothes before leaving via LAX. Other than underwear and socks, I was supposed to wear Lisa’s clothes anyway.
Everything I needed was in my backpack—my laptop, my research notes, my journal—so I sent a text to Gabby and hopped on the next plane to Chicago. We touched down just after 1:00 AM and I spent the night at the Westin near O’Hare, wearing the same clothes to sleep that I’d worn to the dentist.
There’s something liberating about sleeping in clothes instead of pajamas, I’d mused the next morning as I brushed my teeth with supplies hastily purchased from the lobby store. The thought felt rebellious, so I pushed it aside and waited for Gabby to show up.
Which brings us to now.
Am I really doing this?
Not for the first or the thousandth time since hanging up with Lisa yesterday, I took stock of this messy mess and how I’d arrived at this moment, peeking inside a bag brought by Gabby. Speaking of the Gabster, she was staring at my profile as I peered in the bag.
Abruptly, apropos of nothing, she said, “You’re boring.”
My eyes lifted to hers. “Okay.”
“You look boring, I mean. Like, I know you and Lisa are supposed to be identical, but if you were in a club you’d be invisible. You’d be wallpaper. Doesn’t that bother you?” Though the words might’ve been interpreted as harsh, the question sounded honestly curious.
Nevertheless, it aggravated me. This was my chance to find out why Lisa had been arrested and Gabby was already getting under my skin before I could ask any questions.
“No,” I answered, just as honestly, withholding all emotion from my voice and expression.
“Haven’t you ever wanted to be noticed? Be . . . interesting?”
“Not really.” I turned my attention back to the clothes and spotted a black lace bra tucked to one side.
. . . Am I really doing this?
“How is it possible you are still such a Mary Sue?” She poked my shoulder. “Haven’t you heard? Nowadays, being nice is unlikable. It’s all about the rebel. You should do something unexpected, mean, selfish, and don’t apologize for it. Be bad for once and tell everyone to fuck off.”
I sent her a quick glare. “I just ditched a PhD program interview. I’m about to lie and impersonate my twin sister for several days so my parents won’t disown her. Maybe save that question for later, when it might be more accurate.”
“Well, you kind of owe her, don’t you?”
“Owe her? Owe her for what?”
“For getting her sent off to boarding school? For ratting us out to your nanny? Ring any bells?”
I was so proud of myself for not punching her in the face, and even more proud for keeping my voice level and calm. “We both know Lisa wasn’t sent to boarding school because I told our nanny that you had taken whiskey from the cabinet.”
“Oh? Really? That’s not how I remember it.”
“Yes. Really. The only reason Leo and I stayed with Mom and Dad was because of his music and my research.”
“Whatever you need to tell yourself so you can sleep at night.” Gabby studied her nails. “And you know what I mean about being a Mary Sue. Helping Lisa is just part of the same saintly shit, different day.”
Why was she giving me grief about being helpful? Oh. That’s right. Because she’s unhinged.
“While you’re standing here telling me to be bad, Lisa is in jail. Aren’t you at all concerned about her?” As much as I despised interacting with Gabby these days, we were both here for one reason: to help Lisa because we loved and cared about her.
Gabby rolled her eyes. “Of course I’m concerned about her. I’m terrified for her, okay? And I’m doing everything I can to get her out and save her ass, including putting up with you.”
“Putting up with me?” Arg! She was so irritating, all my questions fled my brain.
“You heard me.” Talking to her was like arguing with a flat-earther. Ignorance plus arrogance is why we can’t have nice things!
Best just to get straight to the point. “Why was Lisa arrested?”
Gabby’s flippancy morphed into a severe scowl. “Does it matter? She needs your help. What? Now you don’t want to help her?”
“I didn’t say that.”
“Then help her, and put on these clothes, and stop making this about you.”
“I just want to know why—”
“Classic Mary Sue behavior. Even when you’re being bad, you’re still looking for a way to be the do-gooder center of attention. Where is the fun in always being the good one when it means you have no friends? Why must you ruin fun for everyone else?”
“Oh, you know, I think the fun is in not being arrested for doing something stupid and selfishly forcing your sister to clean up your giant mess.” Despite my best efforts, a hint of bitterness entered my voice, and that flustered me.
Rattled by my uncontrollable, unexpected, and uncharacteristic show of feelings, I cleared my throat and dropped my eyes. Apparently, my ability to speak truth without emotion was on the fritz. Best not to speak to her at all. Pulling out the black bra and shirt Gabby had brought, I held the top up to me. Scowling, I wondered where the other half was, it seemed to be missing the section that covered the stomach.
Gabby snorted and rolled her eyes. “None of Lisa’s clothes are boring. You’re going to be noticed.”
Reaching for a bunched-up pile of black leather in the bottom of the bag and realizing it was pants, I heaved a sigh. “Whether or not I’m boring is irrelevant. Whether or not I’m likable or nice or good or a Mary Sue is irrelevant. The fact is, I am boring and unlikable by your standards. That’s never going to change because I don’t subscribe to your standards. So, moving on, is there anything else I can wear other than this?”
Gabby turned her grumpy expression to the scrap of the shirt, black lace bra, and the black leather pants. “What’s wrong with this?”
“Nothing,” I mumbled, resigned, and scooped them up before turning for the bathroom. “I’ll go change.”
“Too bad you can’t actually change,” she called after me. “Too bad putting on Lisa’s clothes doesn’t also give you some of her badass mojo and rebel spirit.”
Unable to help myself, I mumbled, “You belong on Venus, Gabby.”
“You mean, because it’s, like, the planet of love?” she asked with fake sweetness.
“No. Because it’s, like, our solar system's analog to hell.” And with that, I closed the door to the bathroom and changed. Into my sister.
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