Most Eligible Billionaire: Chapter 9


I TAKE CARLY and Smuckers out to a sidewalk café where we order whatever we want without looking at the prices, and for dessert we get our favorite treat: ice cream with a stupid amount of candy in it.

“Everything’s good now,” Carly says, searching my face for confirmation.

“Def,” I say, because I want that for her, even if I don’t have it for myself.

I still get spooked when groups of people seem to be looking at me; I think they recognize me, and that they’re silently condemning me. A built-in flinch reaction.

I remember being shocked a few months back when people were looking at Carly and me down on the subway platform, and that whole hunted, hated feeling rushed over me.

Then I looked over at Carly, and she was grinning at me. She put her hand on her hip, gave me a cocky look, and said, This coat is so badass nobody can even believe it.

And I wanted to cry from relief. And happiness. My beautiful sister with her bright red hair and orange faux-fur coat. People stare at her and she decides she looks amazing.

That night after she’s asleep, I go to my old jewelry collection, sifting through the pieces I’ve collected over the years. I finger a charm bracelet, one of the few beloved things I still have from my childhood, and that’s when the brainstorm hits.

I’m thinking high-end charms crossed with Valentine’s candy hearts. I’m thinking fun animal faces and playful sayings. Smuckers’s face with Smuck U. A cat with meow, mofo. An owl: GrrOWL.

I start sketching and scribbling, coming up with increasingly outrageous messages. I stay up all night designing and making reckless decisions. It’s just a one-time outfit, so who cares?

I work up a bracelet and a necklace, all animal medallions the size of quarters set in neon pink alloy. The fact that Henry partly inspired it all adds to the crazy, fuck-you fire of it. But really, it’s not solely inspired by him. It’s the city and the battle of the jungle and droplets of water on windshields, the flashing perfume billboard out our window, bright desserts on a tray and me having some fun for once.

Somewhere around four in the morning I redesign everything to make it double sided, with the animal face on one side and white letters on the pink metal. I design sandal charms and hairpins, too. It’s messed up and wild. I forgot how much I missed color.

I drop my sister off at school and head to the makers space. Almost nobody is around. I make medallion molds of different sizes and work out how the lettering will go. Everything feels new. It’s a lot of work for a one-time outfit, but sometimes you make shit just to make it.

The place fills up. I work through lunch, and suddenly Carly’s calling. It’s already time to get her.

It’s only when I stroll out of there into the hot afternoon that I realize things I’ve been making don’t feel new at all.

They feel old. Like Vonda stuff. I don’t know if I want to laugh or cry when I realize that.

My insane collection is ready two days later, matched perfectly to the large Smuck U medallion that adorns the back of Smuckers’s throne.

I show Latrisha the bracelet and necklace set.

“You’re really committing to the madness,” she observes.

I inform her that there will also be a large zoinks medallion in my ponytail.

She’s just looking at the necklace. “I kind of want one. Exactly like this.”

I tell her I’ll make her one. A few other artisans come around. By the end of the day I have orders for ten pieces. I’m thinking about putting it on Etsy. I force myself to go back to my serious collection—Saks is tomorrow—but when I open the box I keep it in, my heart seems to sigh. Not a good sigh. A sad sigh.

Even tucked into elegant black velvet, the pieces look sad. I’m selling safety. Invisibility. Being on trial. Jewelry for a girl who wants desperately to be trusted. Wants not to be hated.

And I realize I want more.


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