I read the card again. It's tonight. I don't have to work.
I shake my head, deflated. "I can't. My mom doesn't even let me wear makeup—in what alternate universe would she ever be okay with me going to a party?"
"Stop letting your mom control your entire life," Emery says in her pretend-robot voice, which always makes me laugh.
"You might be brave enough for parties and tattoos and doing whatever you want, but I'm not," I point out.
Emery lights up and claps her hands together. "That reminds me, I'm getting a new one done next weekend. Do you want to come with me? You can meet Francis. She's amazing. Honestly, if I didn't already have this set plan for medical school, I would totally be a tattoo artist. Her shop is incredible."
She lifts her bag up, sticking out her tongue like it really does weigh fifty pounds, and rummages inside for her sketchbook. Unlike mine, which is completely black on the outside, Emery's is covered in stickers, concert tickets, and tape. When she splits the book open, I watch her flip through sketches of cartoonish women, all dressed like futuristic gangsters and armed with some kind of weapon or another. She stops at a black-and-white image of a girl with pigtails and a giant bubble between her lips. She's holding two pistols—one has LOVE written on the barrel, and the other reads HATE.
"That's amazing," I say, a little breathless. Emery's love of art is probably the reason we've managed to stay friends for the last four years. That and our shared experience of having parents who don't let us invite friends over. "Where are you getting it?"
"On my side. I think it's going to be really painful. Will you be my emotional support?" She pushes out her bottom lip.
"Yeah, I'll go with you."
Her voice goes up an octave. "You could get one too, you know."
"You want to see my mother actually murder me, don't you?"
Emery laughs. "Okay, but at least come to the party tonight?"
And because I feel like saying no will ruin her good mood, I say, "I'll think about it."
Tracing my finger against the edge of the orange card, I tighten my mouth. I don't have it in me to be rebellious. I should—in the course material for Overbearing Mothers 101, I'm probably the perfect example of a person most likely to rebel. But I hate confrontation. And disappointing people. And drawing attention to
Besides, what would I do at a party?
People terrify me. I'd probably spend the whole night wishing I had the superpower to make myself invisible. I don't know how to be any other way. Having fun with lots of other people isn't an easy thing for me to do, especially when it's with people I don't feel comfortable around.
That's why I need Prism.
I want to get away. I want to start over, so I can figure out who I really am and where I fit into the world.
Someday I'd like to feel comfortable enough around people to actually say the things I want to say. I'd like to look around and not feel like I'm the outsider. I'd like a life that just feels calm.
And I need to get away, so I can stop feeling guilty about what happened between my parents. So I don't have to feel like the dark smudge in somebody else's life.
I stuff the card between the pages of my yearbook and replace it with my sketchbook.
• • •
I draw a girl with arms that reach up to the clouds, but all the clouds avoid her because she's made of night and not day.
This excerpt ends on page 15 of the hardcover edition.