She stood in the bus circle, waiting to board, resplendent in her brand-new pink and grey checked fleece jacket that she had just gotten the night before. It was long time coming.
"Please, mom," she whined. "All of the girls have one!"
"But we don't have the money. Why can't you wear the jean jacket? There's nothing wrong with it."
"I do wear it," she said, sulking. "I just want the pink one."
"I'll see what your father says," her mom replied.
Later that week her mom came home from work with a plastic bag from Mervyn's, and she knew that she had won the battle. The jacket came out of the bag, with the tags still attached, smelling like cloth-making chemicals and popularity. It was soft, and pretty, and had a nice collar, and a baby pink zipper pull, and was just like all of the other jackets worn by all of the other girls at her school. This time she wouldn't look like she was from the poor side of town. This time, she wouldn't look like she was dressed in an older woman's hand-me-downs because all of the clothes in her size were intended for adults. This time, she would fit in.
She went to school that day and never took the jacket off. She walked to the bus stop in it, she wore it all the way in on the bus, she wore it to each of her classes and didn't take it off inside or at lunch. She was especially careful not to spill anything on it, because if she did her mom would have to wash it, and it wouldn't be as soft anymore once it was washed. She was careful. She was proud.
She got on the bus and sat near the middle. Too close to the front, and you looked like a goody-two-shoes; too far in the back, and you ran the risk of smelling like smoke or bottle rockets when you got home, and then you had to answer uncomfortable questions from your parents when you hadn't done anything wrong. The middle was fine.
Her bus stop was towards the end of the route. It took nearly an hour and a half to get to her house on the bus. It was a big school district with only one junior high. They had already passed through all of the close neighborhoods. Now they took a jaunt through the rural areas, where the people lived whose parents didn't have enough money to buy houses in town. That's where her stop was. After her came the final area, a brand-new housing development where all of the rich kids lived. Gold-plated assholes, her dad called them. She tended to agree.
Suddenly, there was a very strong aroma of nail polish. Christy must be painting her nails again. She hated that girl. Christy lived with the rich kids. Christy always had new clothes in the latest fashions and plenty of money to spend on nail polish and Aqua Net hairspray to make her hair roll up in the front like the cool girls all did. Christy was also terribly mean and nasty.
She heard snickers. Turning around in her seat, she saw Christy sitting a few seats back and Donnie, that annoying skater kid, sliding into the seat next to her, with a bottle of red nail polish in his hand. Those gold-plated assholes stick together, she thought.
Something red caught her eye against the forest green vinyl of her bus seat. She looked down. There was a smear of red nail polish on it, where she had been leaning a minute before, with a few pink fleece fibers stuck to it. She craned her neck around, but she couldn't see her own back, so she took off her new jacket for the first time that day.
There was a giant, red X painted in nail polish on the back of her brand new jacket.
She turned around so the other kids couldn't see her cry.