Sirenz - By Charlotte Bennardo

A Mismatched Pair

God, you’re wearing those clunky things again? How stupid, wearing five-inch wedge heels on cracked and frozen New York City sidewalks. What if you break an ankle?

“Great shoes,” I said, faking a beauty queen smile at Meg.

“I think I paid five dollars for them. They’re from the seventies,” she said absentmindedly.

No kidding. You should have left them there.

“Feet cold?” I wiggled my toasty toes in my crystal-studded Ugg boots. My feet were warm, and they looked good.

She shrugged.

Poor toesies.

Last spring, when I scored a spot in the coveted Fourth Year Live-In, a program our alternative school offers to twelfth grade students who “show promise, initiative, and vision in their chosen field of study,” I was psyched. It’s a sweet deal that includes the perk of on-campus housing, just like college—no parents, no curfew, and Manhattan living for nine months! Only top students are offered the opportunity. I knew I had to have a roommate, but I figured, how awful could that be?

Then I got paired with Meg Wiley.

We couldn’t be more mismatched—black hair, black clothes, old clothes, not to mention voodoo, hoodoo, or whatever else she was into. The Academically Independent High School of New York had saddled me with a vampire out of a 1940s horror movie, and an argumentative one, too. She always had some smart-ass remark about my love of cashmere or my Starbucks addiction. As if she had no habits to complain about.

I looked at her now, clomping along the sidewalk in those outrageous wood-soled Kabuki shoes and completely black ensemble, and shuddered. On my tall and fair-skinned body, that much black would make me look like the walking dead. At least I knew my skinny jeans, ballet flats, and Victoria’s Secret PJs were safe; Meg could never squeeze her curvy frame into my pink sweaters even if she wanted to, plus she only wore clothes that made her look like she was in a perpetual state of mourning. I shrugged it off.

The wind blasted us as we turned the corner of Fifth and Broadway. We bent into it, clutching our sleeves and wiping our tearing eyes. It made the holiday lights look blurry. Good thing my mascara was water resistant. Who knew who we’d meet? Lots of celebrities came to these sales. Not that Meg cared; she hated the rich and the “ostentatious.”

We’d learned a lot about each other during weeks of petty bickering this fall, but I thought it was time for some sort of truce, since we had to live together for the rest of the year. There was no switching roommates at Live-In; any irreconcilable differences were resolved via removal from the program, and I was not about to let Vampirella stand between me and independence. So, as a peace offering, I called her at home over winter break and invited her out shopping. It was either that or put up with my family for the entire time, which was too depressing to consider. Meg actually agreed—with great reluctance—to come with me to an after-Christmas sample sale. One-of-a-kind creations at undreamed-of prices! Even if she wasn’t interested in a designer bag, something might catch her eye.

And anyway, since she’d gotten into the Live-In program, we had to have something in common. I was determined to find out what that was. So I would be the bigger person and make the first move; we’d do a little shopping, get to know each other better, and who knew—by the end of the night we’d be swapping style tips over a couple of hot lattes. Maybe I could get her to lighten up a bit. Literally.

I tugged on Meg’s coat sleeve to get her attention. “What time is it?” I asked.

She drew an ancient-looking pocket watch out of her purse. “About ten thirty.”

“We have some time to kill before the sale starts,” I said, my teeth chattering.

As Meg snapped the watch shut, her foot caught on the uneven sidewalk. But she quickly recovered.

See, bad shoes! Maybe you’ll find a decent pair at the sale.

“So let’s do something first, then eat, then go,” Meg suggested casually, as if she didn’t almost kiss the sidewalk. I suppressed a smirk behind my pink pashmina scarf. It would be too cruel to ask how her feet were holding up.

“Wait!” She held up a hand, stopping short in front of a little shop. An orange neon sign cast a strange glow against her face: TAROT. “I want a reading.”

“Okay.” I shrugged. If that’s what she wanted to do, I