Mystery Girl

So far, I haven’t posted anything from my new book that I’ve been working on for the past few months. It’s a young adult fantasy novel, with much of it taking place in one of my favorite cities, Tucson. The main character, Miguel Martinez, is mixed-race, with a Hispanic father and an Irish mother. The following I wrote as part of an assignment for my writer’s group and, by the time I finished, discovered a new character for my story.

“Geez, Javier!” Miguel groaned as they edged down the stairs, ducking beneath party streamers and a big banner declaring ‘Happy Birthday!’ “Are we really going to have to listen to Bieber all night?”

His lanky friend glanced up at him. “Bieber? That’s DNCE!”

He rolled his eyes. Bieber or DNCE, he didn’t know the difference. What was he doing here? He was the wrong sort for this type of birthday party. Javier might be his best friend, but dragging him to his cousin Julieta’s house…this was a nightmare. None of these kids ever noticed him at school. Why would they? He was just a gawky band nerd with funny orange hair.

For two hours, he shadowed Javier, as if his friend’s shoulder would hide him from the glances that barely took him in. Julieta had obliged him with two sentences’ worth of attention, then returned to her pack. That was how they moved: a bunch of she-wolves giggling, waiting for one of the strutting alpha males to make his move and invite a girl to dance beneath the old disco ball that cast an ever-changing pattern of silver light around the basement.

That was probably what he was most afraid of, getting stuck dancing with the last girl left, but even that would be better than having to talk to one of them. He had nothing to offer other than tales of his prowess playing World of Warcraft or Destiny. No impressive football battlefield injuries, no dance moves, and definitely no hidden alcohol.

Javier’s aunt, at least, helped limit some of the awkwardness by grabbing ears of couples whose faces were glued to each other and screeching, “What would your mother do if she found out I let this sort of thing go on?” He and Javier shared chuckles whenever it happened, but that was all they seemed to share. His tall friend, at least, knew how to say things to these kids, even if he bemoaned being forced to attend.

Finally, the pack was down to four girls, like a guard over the table of Doritos, M&Ms, and Coke that Julieta’s mom kept replacing. Javier took a deep breath and stepped toward the pack, leaving Miguel alone. Miserable, he looked for a corner to hide before he had to expose the twitchy movements he called dancing.

He beelined towards the shadows of a far corner, only to realize too late that someone was already there. Why hadn’t he noticed the girl sitting there? He hesitated, but her hair caught his gaze. It was Irish orange like his. Her clothes, too, were unlike all the other girls. Rather than a colorful party dress, she wore a black t-shirt emblazoned with a Megadeth logo, black jeans, and black wristbands. She glanced up, and their eyes met. They were green, like his mother’s, but almost buried in a thick layer of eyeliner. For several moments, they just stared, but then she smiled.

Something surged through every muscle, like confidence made electric, and he smiled back. She didn’t fit either.