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    I felt her cut her eyes at me a...aid this, and too lat...ealized she though...as talking about her...aited for her to snap or say something nasty, but she didn't, instead just handing me back the pictures. "Well," she said. "I guess we'll never know."

    As she stepped out into the hallwa...ooked down at the pictures; Mallory's boa shot was back on top. "Sleep well,"...aid.

    "Yeah." She glanced over at me, the light behind her, an...as struck by the simple perfection of her cheekbones and lips, so striking and accidental all at once. "Good night, Annabel."

    Later, whe...ot into bed...icked up the pictures again, then sat back in bed, flipping through them. After going through the stack twice...ot out of bed and went to my desk, digging around in the top drawer unti...ound some pushpins. The...acked the pictures up, in rows of three, on the wall above my radio. So you can look at me sometimes, Mallory had said, and a...urned off my ligh...id just that. The moon, coming in, was slanted across them, making them bright, an...ept my eyes on them as long a...ould. At some point, though...ould feel myself falling asleep, an...ad to turn away, back to the dark.

    Chapter Twelve

    My mother returned from her first vacation in ove...ear rested, manicured, and rejuvenated. Which would have been great, if her newfound energy hadn't been directed at the one thin...east wanted to think about, but now could not avoid: the Lakeview Models Fall Fashion Show.

    "So you've got to be at Kopf's today fo...itting, tomorrow fo...ehearsal," she said to me a...oked at my breakfast before school. "And the final run-through is on Friday. Your hair appointment is on Thursday, an...ooked your nail stuff for Saturday morning, early. Okay?"

    After an entire weekend to myself, not to mention the last few months with very few work commitments, this did not sound okay. It sounded painful. Bu...idn't say anything. As much a...as dreading the week and the show, at leas...ad something to look forward to afterwards, which was going to Bendo with Owen.

    "You know, something occurred to me this weekend," my mom continued. "The Kopf's people are probably just about to start casting for the spring campaign. So this show i...reat opportunity for them to see you in person, don't you think?"

    Hearing this...el...winge of dread, knowin...hould tell he...anted to quit modeling. But the...a...lash of me and Owen on the wall, role-playing this very scenario, and how even when it was jus...am...adn't been able to get the words out. Across from me, my mother was sipping her coffee, an...new that this, right now, was the perfect moment. She'd droppe...weater, an...ould just pick it up. But like Rolly...roze up. And stayed silent. I'd do it later...old myself. After the show...ould.

    At the same time tha...as walking dow...unway at the mall, modeling winter clothes, my sister Kirsten would also be in front o...rowd, albeit fo...ifferent reason. The day before, she'd finally e-mailed her short piece to me as promised. Becaus...as used to Kirsten explaining-if not overex-plaining-everything that was any part of her life whatsoever, the message she'd sent with it took me by surprise.

    Hi, Annabel, here it is. Let me know what you think. Love, K.

    At first, I'd actually scrolled down through the body of the e-mail, looking for the rest of the message-if my sister was long-winded on the phone, her e-mails were equally verbose. But there was nothing else.

    


    I hit the download now button, then watched as blue squares filled up the screen. When it was done...licked on

    PLAY.

    The first shot was of grass. Green, beautiful grass, just like the kind on the golf course across the street, i.e., totally chemically induced, filling the screen from one side to the other. Then the camera pulled back, back, to show it was the yard in front o...hite house with pretty blue trim, and two figures on bikes blurred past.

    The camera cut, and we were suddenly facing two girls as they rode toward us. One...londe, looked to be about thirteen; the other...runette, was thinner and more slight, laggin...ittle bit behind.

    Suddenly the girl in front looked back at the other, then began pedaling faster, pulling away from her. As she did so, the camera cut back and forth between her pedaling, wind blowing back her hair, and pretty images of the neighborhood...og asleep on the sidewalk...an picking up his paper, the blue, blue sky...prinkler sending water in an arc ove...lower bed. As she kept on, picking up speed, the images came faster and faster, repeating, until the camera cut t...hot of the road ahead, coming t.... She skidded t...top, then turned around. Behind her, in the distance, you could just se...ike lying in the middle of the road, one wheel spinning, the smaller girl sitting beside it, holding her arm.

    The next shot was of the blonde skidding t...top beside her. "What happened?" she asked.

    The younger girl shook her head. "I don't know," she said.

    The blonde pushed herself over, closer. "Here," she said. "Get on."

    In the next shot, the smaller girl was balanced on the handlebars, holding her arm, as the blonde pedaled up the street. Again the camera cut between them and images of the neighborhood, although both were different now: the dog lunging and barking as they passed, the man stumbling as he reached for his paper, the sky gray, the sprinkler hissing as water splatte...earby car, then ran in streaks down the side. It was the same, and yet so different, and when the house rose up in the distance, it looked different, too. The blonde pedaled up the driveway, the camera pulling back as she did so, then stopped as the younger girl slid off the handlebars, holding her arm tight against her. They dropped the bike onto the grass and started toward the house. They climbed the steps. The door opened for them, but you couldn't see who was on the other side. As they disappeared inside, the camera panned down until the grass filled the screen again, side to side, scarily green and bright and fake. And then it was over.

    I just sat there fo...oment, staring at the screen. The...it play and watched it again. An...hird time...till wasn't sure what to make of it, even a...eached for the phone and dialed Kirsten's number. But when she answered, an...old he...iked it but didn't get it, she wasn't upset. Instead, she said that was the whole point.

    "What, tha...e confused?"...sked.

    "No," she said, "that the meaning not be spelled out. It's supposed to be left up to your interpretation."

    "Yes, but you know what it means,"...aid. "Right?"

    "Sure."

    "And that is?"

    She sighed. "I know what it means to me," she said. "For you, it's going to be different. Look, film is personal. There's no right or wrong message. It's all what you take from it."

    ......
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