The Beginning of
“Nothing,” said Charlotte.
“A blank book, you mean?” said Frankie. She stuffed her phone between the couch cushions and rolled over on her back. “Hater. We’re not that lame.”
“No. Not blank. Just, like, boring,” Charlotte said. “If you wrote a book about our real lives, nothing would happen. Ever.” She tossed the book she was reading over the side of the couch and slid down, wedging her feet into Frankie’s armpit.
“Get out,” Frankie said, slapping her foot halfheartedly.
“Shut up.” Charlotte dug her feet deeper into Frankie’s armpit and resumed talking. “In there”—she waved at the book on the floor—“the main girl has red ringlets, like, three feet long—”
“And everyone thinks she’s hot but she doesn’t care, because she has a secret.”
“Ooh-ooh, a secret,” snickered Frankie. “This is why I don’t read.”
“Guess what it is.”
“Get your feet out of my armpit first,” said Frankie.
“Guess,” commanded Charlotte.
“Rape, incest,” said Frankie in a bored voice. “Or oh my god, she’s gay.”
“Oh my god, she’s gay,” said Charlotte. “And then oh my god, there’s a rainstorm and oh my god, she doesn’t have an umbrella, so she runs into a—wait for it—”
“An AA meeting!” yelled Frankie.
“No! A sculpture class!” said Charlotte. “Where she sees a gorgeous Iranian girl with oh my god, scars on her wrists, and they exchange stares of attraction.”
“Yeah, yeah,” said Frankie. “Where’s the dead mom?”
“Dead brother. Iranian girl’s.”
“Is there a scene where the main girl runs through a storm to save the Iranian girl from suicide and they touch each other and then have insane sex?”
Charlotte wrinkled her nose. “No storm.There was already a rainstorm when they met. They can’t have two rainstorms.”
“But suicide and insane sex?”
“Yeah. The sex part’s good.” With a grunt, Charlotte propelled herself halfway off the couch to retrieve the book.
“Oh god! Get your gross feet out of my face!” wailed Frankie.
Returning to the couch with a thump, Charlotte flipped through the book. “Here. Page two hundred eleven.” She passed it down the couch.
Frankie read breathily, “ ‘“No,” I whispered. I meant yes. Yesyesyes. She knew. She knew everything. She knew how to slide her cool hands under me, she knew how to open my legs—’” Frankie fell silent, reading. “Whoo-whoo, that is hot.” After a moment, she looked up at Charlotte with shining eyes. “Why aren’t we gay?”
“I know,” said Charlotte. “But we’re not. At least, I’m not. I don’t know about you. You seem a little gay to me.”
“You know what would be really good?” said Frankie dreamily. “If one of us was gay and, like, dying of secret lust for the other. And then there could be a discovery scene. And then insane sex.”
“Sorry,” said Charlotte. “Not going to happen. ’Cause we’re not gay. We like disgusting smelly guys who don’t like us. Like Kellen and Reed. Fuckers.”
“Fuckers,” Frankie agreed.
“And,” continued Charlotte,“even if we were gay, probably no one would like us. Look at Noony. It’s not like she’s having nights of insane sex. She’s having nights of insane homework, same as us.”
“Nights of homework, days of school, weekends of hanging around wishing that something would happen. And sometimes—yay!—babysitting!” Frankie tossed the book back to the floor. “Now I feel all shitty. Reading sucks.”
“We suck,” said Charlotte.
A distant slam. “I’m home!” Heels sounded heavily in the hallway, and Charlotte’s mother thumped into the kitchen. She was much smaller than her footsteps suggested. She looked suspiciously at the girls on the couch. “You haven’t been eating my lettuce, have you?”
“Hi, Charlotte,” said Charlotte. “How was school?”
“You look like you might have been eating my lettuce.”
Charlotte rolled her eyes at Frankie. “Most moms worry that their kids are getting into the liquor cabinet. My mom worries that I ate lettuce.”
“My lettuce,” her mom clarified. “The liquor’s right up there.” She pointed to a high cupboard. “Oh shit. Sorry.” She glanced worriedly at Frankie. “I shouldn’t say stuff like that. Just kidding! Don’t drink, kids!”
“Mom!” groaned Charlotte.
“Okay, okay. I’ll go change,” said her mom. “Don’t do drugs!” She clomped away.
Charlotte winced. “She’s a weirdo.”
Frankie nodded. “But still: the eccentric mother. At least you’ve got that.”
Charlotte laughed. “Nah. Only grandmas get to be eccentric. Moms in books are either dead or drunk.”
“Nuh-uh. I’ve read ones where the mom is all life-forcey and wacky.”
“Those ones die,” Charlotte pointed out.
“Oh yeah. Right.”
“The thing is, real life isn’t about anything. That’s what I meant,” Charlotte said. Frankie looked a question. “You know, when I said that a book about our lives would be about nothing. There wouldn’t be a plot, because we do the same stuff every day.”
“No wild sex, either,” said Frankie glumly.
Charlotte shook her head. “Nobody our age actually has wild sex.”
“Aaron Shields does. He says.”
Charlotte rolled her eyes. “No one he’s doing it with says so. You know Lena? She said never again. So, okay: no plot, no sex, and no character development, because everyone’s exactly the same as they’ve always been.”
“Hey!” Frankie kicked her. “I’ve changed a lot!” She frowned. “Haven’t I?”
Charlotte snorted. “You wish. I’ve known you since you were eight, and you haven’t changed at all.”
“You have. You’re more of a bitch.”
Frankie pulled her phone out from the cushions and looked at it. “Check out my ratio,” she said, holding out her phone.
Charlotte glanced at the phone. “Groovy.” Then came a long period of silence while Frankie liked photos and Charlotte gazed out the window.
“Look—” Frankie held out the phone again. “She’s wearing that V neck you almost got. I hate that color.”
“Yeah.” Charlotte nodded absently. “You know, I’m going to do it.”
“What? The V neck? I don’t—”
“No. The book. I’m going to write a book about what our lives are really like,” said Charlotte. “I’m going to make it my senior project.”
“You’re only a sophomore,” said Frankie.
“I’ll get it done early.”
Frankie screwed up her face. “But nothing ever happens to us.”
“I know!” said Charlotte excitedly. “That’s the point! It’ll be, like, a searing document of today’s youth and how incredibly boring our lives are!”
Frankie paused. “Am I going to be in it?”
“Hello? You’re my best friend. You have to be in it. This is a true story.”
“Can’t you make something happen to me?”
“Nuh-uh! Only the truth!”
Frankie groaned. “Oh my god, I’m bored already.”
“Too bad, Franklin.”
“Fuck me,” said Frankie.
And that was how Nothing began.