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Teen Writing Contest Winner: "Popular" by Molly B.


By Molly B.

1st Place Winner at the Eagle Library

My hand jumps as Neyla sales over a speedbump. Mascara smears the corner of my eye, I groan and rub it with the corner my sleeve. Becky G is exploding from Katie’s crackley station wagon speakers. Smudges of small boxy houses with perfect lawns swirl around me. Sputtering giggles radiate from the backseat, where Emma and Morgan are smearing different shades of eyeshadow on each other. Neyla is whipping her hair back-and-forth in the front seat one hand out the window pinching a cigarette. I twist around and crane my neck to face Morgan who is hunched over a pallete.

“Dara! What do you think about this shade for Em?“ Morgan has a brush caked in what looks like crushed pennies, resting in her freshly manicured hands.

“Yeah, I like it.” I assure her. She tilts Emma‘s chin up and strokes each eye carefully.

Morgan flicks her hands out to her side and gives us a satisfied look, she drops the brush into her backpack. Morgan has a little sister and her and her mom live in an old motel like apartment. The man two floors up from Morgan just got out of jail. She’s definitely not in thegroup for her money. That’s Emma, her mom is a neurosurgeon and she lives in a clean cutwhite mansion where the toilet paper folds into triangles at the end.

As Neyla screeches into the student parking lot she wrenches the broken rear view mirror toward her. She fluffs her hair and delicately places her high-heel out the door, then rolls out dramatically her head tilted back. This is what's supposed to happen, the agenda for the ‘popular’ girls. The agenda where we glamorously slip out of our car. Where we strut through the hallways the boys will gawk as we sway our hips. To all of Lincoln high that's what we are.

I breeze through fourth, and walk with Emma to the cafeteria.

“I heard there’s a party at Ethan‘s. You you know for Halloween” she says and she rolls her eyes when she says Halloween. But before I can answer. Neyla brushes through a group of snorting boys in matching ‘NASA’ t-shirts. She flutters her fingers at us and I wiggle mine back. She pushes her hips out with each step.

“Bathroom ladies!” She squeals, and she shoves us into the nearest door.

“OK so, Will asked if I wanted to go to some Halloween party!” She coats more bright red lipstick to her lips.

“So, we’re going to skip eighth. And get ready early?“ She says this like it’s a question but I know it’s not.

“Sounds cool, Ethan‘s house right?” I ask leaning against a stall and rearrange the curly mess of hair on my head.

“Yeah huh.” Morgan mumbles her fingers are flying over her phone. “Sorry, I’m trying to get Luke to get us fries before the line gets too long”

“Let’s go before Emma thinks we left her” I say and yank the door open.

“So we’re going?” Emma asks, folding a fry into her pink painted lips. We are all perched on the plastic bench in the middle of the cafeteria.

“Can we skip eighth and get ready at your house?” Neyla asks.

“Get ready for what?” A scratchy deep voice cracks over my head. I yank my hips to face Josh.

“Ethan‘s party” Neyla smirks, “You coming?”

I stand up hands on my hips “of course he is.” I bat my eyelashes and look up at him. Josh is a tall broad shouldered quarterback on the varsity football team. His raven hair always twists over his left eye.

“Wouldn’t miss it” he sings, looking down at me through his ashy eyelashes. The bell screams through the speakers and we all seep out of the white tile the cafeteria.

“Soooo” Morgan wiggles her eyebrows as she drags out the ‘o’, “You and Josh are getting serious?”

I roll my eyes and wipe the final layer of lipgloss over my lips. “We’re taking the Station Wagon right?“ I check, trying to change the subject.

“Obviously.” Neyla squeals.

We have all raided Emma’s closet. Morgan has a tight black dress that squeezes her hips. I have a flowy white dress that pulls tight on my skinny shoulders. Neyla swivels her hips as she whips out of the bathroom, fingers curled around the top of the door. She has a silk lacy dress dangling from her shoulders.

“Oh my God. Neyla! You look... stunning” her eyes are wide

“Alright ladies,” Emma calls from the bathroom, “Let’s go!”

We stack into the car and Neyla thrusts her iPhone in my lap. “Playlist Dara” I pick it up and slide my fingers across the screen. I tap one titled ‘oh...this? its nothing’ Melanie Martinez spills into the car.

“Oh yes girl!” Emma waves her arms in the air. I chuckle and turn it up. Ethan‘s house is small but the fields he owns roll on for acres. In one of the horses stables, a plastic table is set up, balancing bowls of chips and cans of Sprite. A speaker the size of a small dresser leans against the chipped wood wall. My phone vibrates and I glance at the screen.

It’s a text from Josh it reads, ‘By the tent… U here yet?’

I tap Emma on the shoulder, “I’m gonna go find Josh” I breathe into her ear

“Ooooo, go get some girly” she buzzes and winks. I snort a laugh.

I find Josh leaning against a tent pole I press my fingers over his eyes,

“Who is it?” he pulls my hands off and turns around.


“Cheater.” I giggle. The music blasts and the night slips swiftly through my fingers. Blurs of red solo cups and loud music , short dresses and sloppy kissing.

I pinch my phone and the rectangle of light makes me squint. 1:36, the time glares up at me. “Hey, Neyla we should go” I whisper into her hair.

“Yeah, I was just gonna get Em.” I nod and start digging through the crowds. I see Morgan, she is in a smaller white tent and her white-blonde hair is whipping around her face. I squirm through a group of sophomores and pull
on her hand.

“Oh, Dara! Let's dance!” her eyes are big and stary.

“We have to go.” I tell her, leaning into her shoulder. She pouts but she lets me drag her through the yellow grass. We see Neyla and Emma draped over the hood of the car giggling. “Let's go, it's freezing!” My breath billows as the words escape my mouth.

The car shuffles to a stop at a stop sign but since there is no other cars Neyla speeds up again. Blowing leaves plaster to our windows, glistening with fiery reds and glowing oranges. A light rain is now pressing against the windshield. Music is still pouring from the front of the car. We are bursting with stories from the night. We peel out on exit 6 and Neyla turns around to face me. I’m arguing with Morgan about the lyrics to a song. Neyla’s hand is still laced around the wheel but her eyes are locked on mine.

“Dara, you should tr-”

“Neyla!” Emma's voice stings they air.

The bright sound of screeching tires flood in. Burning headlights swim in and out of view. My vision is blurry and the sharp metallic sounds eat into my ears. Then everything slows I feel the seatbelt gnawing at my neck. My head his heavy. Screeching metal slices through the thick air. Spiders of pain and fear jolt me, then a bright light crashes over me, slamming me into the back of my seat. ‘ Am I dead?’ Then the light swallows me and I dip into deep blankness.

My, bloodshot, swollen eyes shutter open revealing the room around me. My legs scrape against gritty fabric. I exhale and push myself up on the white sheets. ‘ A bed?’ I sweep my dreary eyes over my surroundings. The smell of rubbing alcohol and rubber sears my lungs and throat. A steady beeping drips into my ear. I slip my eyes over a white blinking machine, a long tube slithers out of the flashing box. I trace the tube into my wrist. ‘

Where is Neyla?’ I thrash my legs wildly until the sheets crumple to the blue tile.

“Where are they?!“ My voice is crackly and rusty, “Help me!” The bleached white walls seem to be squeezing into me. The wooden door is thrown open and a small woman in white trainer shoes half shuffles half runs into the room

“Where did you put Emma!?“ I twist my eyes into her triangular face.

“Honey please sit down“ her voice oozes out of her mouth like honey. I don’t want to but I sit down but her words continues melting over me.

“Your friend?” her soft voice stutters a little in confusion “There is no others with us dear” and her eyebrows in it together in a way that makes me think of a puppet.

I let the words absorb into me I suddenly can’t breathe, my chest chokes, ‘no I can’t trust her!’

“Now lay down honey” the woman shoves me back on the bed with startling force. Suddenly cool metal clamps down on my wrists. ‘ No!’ She is now her lips curl with a gnarled, syrupy, grin.

“She’s in here!” the nurse shouts her voice now icy and made of steel.

Pulsing, rapid pain
Numbing blackness...

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