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  But Josie doesn’t hear him, either. She is too busy scrubbing every inch of her body. She scrubs places she didn’t know she could reach. She pays special attention to the places that had never, before tonight, been exposed to the outdoors. She washes her hair twice. It’s a good thing there isn’t a drought right now, because Josie uses enough water to fill the dolphin pool at SeaWorld. Finally satisfied that she is leech-free, she dries off and pulls on her robe. She uses the hair dryer to dry her hair but doesn’t bother putting any effort into straightening it. She’s just going to sleep on it anyway. Then she opens the bathroom door and trips right over Rob, who for some unknown reason is sleeping outside the door.

  11:25 P.M.– 11:59 P.M.

  Chapter 12: Josie Gets the Last Word

  “Put up your right hand and swear you only had one sip,” Rob says as we both scramble to get up from the floor.

  I raise my hand. “I swear. May I go to my room now?”

  “You may. Hey, wait. Do you think Katy Parker would go out with me?”

  I stare at him like he just spoke in Chinese. “Katy? As in, my best friend Katy?”

  “Would it be weird?”

  I cannot find the words to respond.

  “Yeah,” he says, “it would probably be too weird. Forget I mentioned it. Sorry for nearly killing you on your birthday.”

  He doesn’t know I can’t die on my birthday, and I don’t bother to tell him. He also doesn’t know just how weird it truly would be if I asked Katy if she wanted to date Rob right now. And I’m CERTAINLY not going to tell him why.

  Back in my room I slip on the red silk pajamas. They feel amazing next to my rubbed-raw skin. I check myself out in the full-length mirror inside my closet door. I look older. More sophisticated. Like an old-time movie actress in some black-and-white movie. I pull my hair into a ponytail and then push everything off my bed in one fell swoop. My books, pens, hair clips, lipstick tubes, birthday presents all go flying. It seems like something one of those dramatic actresses would have done. As soon as everything crashes down, I realize it was stupid. I’m lucky the sunglasses Rob gave me didn’t break. I put them in my bookbag so I’ll have them tomorrow for when I drive myself to school. Rob offered to get a ride with someone so I could take my friends. Jason Count and his girlfriend-whose-name-starts-with-an-E will just have to snuggle without us watching them.

  I lay down on my bed, luxuriating in the feel of the silk on my skin. Grandma was right. Every sixteen-year-old should have a pair of these. Especially after she’s jumped naked into a cold, slimy, leech-infested lake. Only now does it really sink in that I was naked in front of not only my friends, but also whoever else may have been lurking around. Thinking of being naked reminds me of what I had intended as my last activity of the night. I sit up and open the night-table drawer. BREAST BOOST... FULLNESS AND GROWTH. GUARANTEED! We’ll just see about that.

  I unbutton my pajama top and stand in front of the full-length mirror. The directions tell me to rub a pea-sized amount onto both breasts. How do I know what qualifies as pea-sized? Sometimes Mom gives us those little dark green peas with dinner, and sometimes the peas are bright green and, like, twice as big. Well, if bigger is better I might as well go for the bigger pea. Plus, I don’t even need to use it on both breasts. I just want to catch the right one up with the left one. I squeeze a glob of the purple goo onto my fingers. Here goes. With the recommended circular motion, I massage the goo onto its intended target. The goo is supposed to rub all the way in, but after the allotted full minute of massaging, my skin still feels sticky. If Mom talks to her plants to make them grow, maybe I should try that.

  “Grow. Enlarge thyself. Take up more space in my bra.” Okay. I officially feel like an idiot and hope no one heard that. For the next thirty minutes I run back and forth from the mirror to my desk, where I make a halfhearted attempt to do my homework. At least I breezed right through those seven deadly sins. I may even have made up a few new ones not on the list.

  Three minutes later: No change.

  Five minutes later: Still no change.

  Eight minutes later: Slight redness appears.

  Twelve minutes later: Redness fades to pinkness.

  Fifteen minutes later: Is the bottom half puffier?

  Twenty minutes later: Bottom half definitely puffier. Looks weird.

  Twenty-five minutes later: Still smaller than other one. Twenty-eight minutes later: Still smaller, still pinkish. Twenty-nine minutes later: Sort of puffy, sort of swollen, think it may be my imagination.

  Thirty minutes later: I am in the bathroom washing it off. If any of my birthday wishes had to not come true, I’m glad it was this one.

  Back in my room I shut off the light and slide between the sheets. I may never go back to regular pajamas again. I stare up at the ceiling, not ready to shut my eyes. I hope Katy doesn’t regret that she told me her secret. I hope I didn’t say anything too stupid. Maybe I should have told her I think Ms. Connors is pretty too. That probably wouldn’t have come out right.

  Two seconds later I swing my legs off the side of the bed and spring up. How could I have forgotten to check for the play postings? Mr. Polansky said they’d be up by midnight and it’s five minutes till. Not even bothering to turn on the light, I drum my fingers on the desk as I wait for the modem to connect. The glow of the computer screen illuminates something pink lying halfway under the bed. I reach down and pick up the thin candle that Mom had included in the box with her muffins. It must have fallen out of my pants when I swept everything off my bed. My birthday still isn’t officially over, so I figure I should be allowed one last birthday wish. Rather than finding something to stick it in, I hold the candle in my left hand and light a match with my right. Not an easy task, but like I said, I’m a good balancer. This morning my wish would have been a no-brainer. I would have wished that when the postings came up, next to the role of Juliet would be my name. But now my wish is different. I hold the candle in front of my face and close my eyes.

  “I wish that whatever I find when the list comes up is exactly the way it’s supposed to be.” I open my eyes and blow out the candle. The Web site has come up. The link for the list is right there, blinking on and off. I take a deep breath and click on it.

  The first word I see is Juliet. And next to Juliet is... Stephanie Rose. Stephanie. Not Josie. I close my eyes and lean back in my chair. I wait to feel the crushing blow, but it doesn’t come. I’m too brain-dead from this incredibly long, bizarre day to analyze why. Stephanie must be one of the seniors. This would be her last chance to be in a school play. This morning that wouldn’t have mattered to me. I take another deep breath, open my eyes, and scan down the list for my name. There I am, Josie Taylor, right next to the words Lady Capulet. At least I got a main role. I guess Mr. Polansky thinks I’m mature enough to play an older woman. I guess I must be if I don’t feel like curling into the fetal position and crying over losing Juliet. The next name on the list is Juliet’s Nurse. Megan got the part! I turn off my monitor and slide back into bed. Too bad Megan didn’t try harder. She would have made a great Juliet.

  I close my eyes and then toss my extra pillow onto the floor in preparation for where I’ll end up in the morning. I have the same thought every four years when my Leap Day birthday ends — tomorrow will be March 1st. Just a regular day, where I’ll be no one special. Absolutely nothing will separate me from anyone else. But this time something’s different. This time, I don’t believe it.