Ever Feel Invisible?
The only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about. -Oscar Wilde
You never think it will happen to you.
You think about what it would be like. You go through it over and over in your mind, changing the scenario slightly each time, but deep down, you don't really believe it would ever happen, because it's something that happens to someone else,not to you.
Charlotte Usher headed purposefully across the parking lot to the front doors of Hawthorne High, repeating her positive mantra — "This year is different. This is my year." Instead of being forever etched in her classmates' high school memories as the girl who just took up space, the seat filler, the one who sucked up precious air that could be put to better use, she was going tostart off this year on the other foot, a foot with the hottest, most uncomfortable shoes that money could buy. Shed wasted last year feeling like the unwanted stepchild of the Hawthorne High student body, and she wasn't about to go out like that. This year, the first day of school was going to be the first day of her new life. Approaching the front steps, she could see the last flashes from the schoolyearbook staff's cameras sparking in the doorway, as Petula Kensington and her crew strutted farther and farther down the hallway. They were always the last to arrive and then they'd suck everyone in behind them in some kind of superpopular undertow. With their entrance, the school year had officially begun. And Charlotte was alone outside and falling behind schedule. Same as always. So far. Thejanitor manning the doorway peeked outside and looked around to see if anyone was coming. There wasn't. Well, there was, but, as usual, he had overlooked Charlotte, who was picking up speed as he began to close the massive metal door. To her, it looked like the door to a bank vault. But undaunted for a change, Charlotte reached the doors and found just enough room to squeeze in her new shoe andkeep it from closing. "Sorry, I didn't see you," the janitor mumbled indifferently. She wasn't seen, which was expected, but she did get some acknowledgment and an apology. Her "Popular Plan" — a to-do list that she had meticulously crafted in hopes of snagging the object of her desire, Damen Dylan — must have been working. Like many of her peers, Charlotte spent all summer working, but, unlikemost, she was selfemployed in the remodeling business, you could say. She had pored over last year's yearbook as if her life depended on it. She'd studied Petula, the most popular girl in school, and her two ass-kissing best friends, the Wendys — Wendy Anderson and Wendy Thomas — the way some fangirls study their favorite celebrity. She wanted to get it perfect. Just like them. She approached thefirst destination on her agenda with confidence: the sign-up sheet for cheerleader tryouts. Cheerleader. The most prized and exclusive "sorority" of all and her Golden Ticket to being not only noticed but envied. Charlotte grabbed the old pen that was dangling from the clipboard by a frayed string held together with masking tape and started to sign her name in the last open spot. As she startedwriting the "C," she was tapped harshly on the shoulder. Charlotte stopped writing and turned to see who was interrupting her first task of the day — no, of her new life — and then saw a line of girls who had been "camped out" all night waiting to sign up. The gathering resembled less of a tryout than a casting call. The obnoxious candidate looked her over from head to toe, grabbed the pen, andsimultaneously wrote her name in and Charlotte off. She then opened her hand and let the pen mercilessly drop the length of the string. Charlotte watched the pen sway against the wall like a hanged man. She heard the pack of aspiring cheerleaders giggling behind her as she walked away. Charlotte had experienced this kind of cruelty before — to her face and behind her back — and had always tried not to...