Epic Fail

By: Claire Lazebnik

She ignored that. “Where’s Layla? She’s late.”

“Layla’s always late.”

“Not always.”

“Always,” I repeated.

Another fifteen minutes went by before Layla finally showed.

“You were supposed to meet us here at three thirty,” I snapped.

“It’s right around then, isn’t it?” She glanced vaguely at her watch.

“It’s almost four,” Juliana said.

“Sorry. I met some girls today and we were talking and I didn’t realize how late it had gotten.”

“Why are your eyes all glittery?” I asked.

Layla reached up to touch her eyelid absently. “We were playing around with each other’s makeup.”

“You’d better take it off before Mom sees you,” Juliana warned. We could get away with wearing a small amount of artfully applied blush and eye shadow so long as it looked fairly natural, but anything too bright was a red flag to our parents, who didn’t think their daughters should wear makeup at all.

“I know,” Layla said. “There are wipes in the car.” She pushed me away from her. “Are you sniffing me, Elise? What are you, a dog?”

“Have you been smoking?” I asked.

“Oh, for God’s sake! Can we just go home, please?” She ran up the rest of the steps.

Incredulous, I grabbed my messenger bag and dashed after her, Juliana close behind. “If Mom and Dad find out—”

“They won’t if you don’t tell on me,” she said over her shoulder. “Anyway, it wasn’t me who was smoking. It was a couple of the other girls—their smoke got in my clothes. You can smell my breath, if you don’t believe me.”

“You’re chewing gum! That’s the oldest trick in the book.”

“Yeah?” she said. “And how would you know that?”

“Give her a break, Elise,” Juliana said, catching at my arm. “If she says she wasn’t smoking, she wasn’t smoking.”

“Thank you,” Layla said. “At least someone in the family is capable of showing some trust.” She walked on the path ahead of us, her chin high, the picture of affronted dignity.

That was when I noticed her pockets. “No way!” I said to Juliana.


I pointed. “Those are my jeans—the one new pair I own.”

“Are you sure? Maybe they just look like yours.”

“I’m sure,” I said, my voice tight with the kind of frustration that comes from having three sisters and a small house and never getting to keep anything to yourself. “I bought them with my own money.” I sped up. “I should tear them right off her little selfish—”

Juliana tightened her grip on my arm. “Calm down, Elise. She shouldn’t have borrowed them without asking, but I know she was really nervous this morning. She was probably worried about being dressed right, and—”

I flung off her hand irritably. “Why do you always defend her?”

“Honestly?” She smiled apologetically. “Because someone has to.”

We entered the student parking lot and walked by rows of Audis, Lexuses (Lexi?), Mercedes, and Porsches before going through the gate that separated the students’ cars from the faculty’s. The cars instantly became less fancy and more utilitarian.

Ours stood out among the countless gray-toned and indistinguishable small Japanese cars; it was one of only a few minivans, and uniquely bright green. Mom had negotiated for it years ago through a car dealer who said he could get us a great price as long as we weren’t picky about the color.

We weren’t picky about the color. We couldn’t afford to be.

Layla was already tugging impatiently on the door handle. “Will you hurry up and open it already? My bag weighs a ton.”

Juliana pulled out the keys and unlocked the van. We had driven in with Mom that morning, but she had told Juliana to take us home. Dad’s old Honda was still in his space: he’d head home when he was ready and then come back to pick up Mom whenever she was all done with meetings—which, she had pronounced, wouldn’t be until after dinner. She had a lot to do “to whip this school into shape,” she had said in the car that morning, her eyes gleaming with almost-religious fervor.

As Layla tossed her book bag inside the car, I came up behind her. “If you ever wear my jeans again without permission, I’ll kill you,” I said.

She glanced down at her legs like she had never seen them before in her life. “Are these yours? I had no idea. They were in my room, so I just assumed they were mine.”

“You are such a liar,” I said. “They were folded and in my drawer this morning.”

“You’re obviously confused.” It was the little snarky smile on her face that drove me to the edge. I grabbed her arm—not gently.

“I am so sick of this,” I said, shaking her. “Why do you have to be such a—” Something fell out of the pocket of her hoodie. We both bent down to grab it, but I was faster. I snatched it up and showed the open cigarette pack to Juliana. “Still think she was telling the truth?”

“Oh, Layla,” Juliana moaned.

“They’re not mine,” Layla said, turning to her. “I’m holding them for a friend.” Her voice got higher. “Really. I swear.”