But Mrs. Manyon looked terrible, maybe she was sick and distracted by her misery. “Is your mom alright?” she asked as they walked through the hall.
“Why? What was she doing?” It sounded suspicious. “In the bathroom, you mean?”
Brekkyn stopped in her tracks, turning around slowly. “Stay here,” she said, and stalked back to her door. As she disappeared inside, Tanissa thought she had it all wrong with her new friend—clearly Brekkyn was concerned about her mother, even if she acted like a brat.
Still, the way she’d marched in there, it was like a prison guard investigating an escape attempt, but that could’ve been a show she was putting on to impress her new friend.
Only second later, she came out again, and there was a look on her face--a hard to define one--as though she was proud of herself.
“Is she okay?”
“What? Who?” the other girl said, then put on a happy face. “You said you wanted to take a shower, right?”
“What?” Tanissa asked, suddenly tempted to sniff her armpits, right there in the hall.
“Go ahead and do that, and I’ll meet you in a half hour or so. We can go then.”
Now she was worried about the woman. “Is everything alright?”
“It’s fine. I’ll see you in a few.” And the younger girl turned and headed back to her apartment. Stalked back, would’ve been a better description. Something was going on between mother and daughter in Apartment 4, and it made her want to call her mom up and apologize for the friction they’d had lately.
“Hey, girlfriend,” Brekkyn exclaimed.
Tanissa had to consciously keep from rolling her eyes. “Hey,” she said.
“You all clean now?” she asked.
“I guess so.”
“Oh.” The girl walked into the room and looked around. “Did you notice this is the same as my house? Except the window is in the wrong place.”
Tanissa nodded. She wasn’t sure whether she liked this girl, but she wasn’t going to be mean to her. There had been mean girls in school who seemed to spend all day thinking up cruelties, and Tanissa would never do that.
“I got some money,” Tanissa said. “But it’s gotta last me at least this week.”
Brekkyn ho-hummed at this, but a moment later, they were heading out to the stairs. It was a warm day, but windy, and they walked up and down the block, talking. Brekkyn wanted to know her birthday, what cities she had been to, her favorite song and color, and whether she thought smoking was stupid or cool. Mostly, Tanissa felt, she just wanted the opportunity to give her answers to the same questions. Even though she had everything a person could want--including her own Netflix account, a motorized scooter, and nearly fifty pairs of shoes--she didn’t have any brothers and sisters, and she had no friends.
“I’m your friend,” Tanissa said, putting on a reassuring smile.
“I don’t mind being alone,” the pale girl said, shrugging. “It’s hard for children to relate to me.”
Tanissa looked over at her, squinting. “Say what?”
The girl wrapped her hair around her finger, then finally squared her shoulders. “I really shouldn’t tell you this, but I’m one-fifth mermaid.”
“It’s true,” Brekkyn said, seeming to be boasting.
“Mermaids aren’t real,” Tanissa said quietly.
“My grandma was one of them. So I’m a minority too.”
Is that what this was about? “That’s nice. I’m three-quarters Bigfoot.”
“That’s not funny.”
“Alright,” said Tanissa. It had seemed funny in her head, but no big deal. “My grandmother was Cleopatra, so I know how you feel.” That too, seemed funny in her head.
“I’m not lying,” Brekkyn argued, though Tanissa hadn’t inferred she was a liar.
Tanissa put her hands in the air, the non-verbal equivalent of saying, Okay, okay, you win. That seemed to work.