The doorknob of the next room rattled as I passed. Misty swept from the doorway and knocked into me, glaring.
“The ogre took my phone. Thanks a lot, Miss Goody Two-Shoes.” She huffed around me. “I don’t know what possessed me to let you tag along anyway.” The echo of her footfalls slammed through the hallway even after she’d turned the corner.
“You asked me to come,” I muttered, walking again. By the time I reached the waiting room, she was gone.
I stepped through the automatic door, the cold, night air piercing my lungs. Snowflakes, too waterlogged to float, splattered on the pavement like wounded birds. I spied Dad’s sports coupe and watched the milky snow plop onto the shiny red paint. On second thought, the stuff falling from the sky looked more like what birds do.
Mom’s parking space was two over from Dad’s, next to an iron lamppost. I pulled my hood up, jogged to the champagne-colored car, and tugged the passenger door handle. Locked. Pressing my forehead against the cold window, I watched the tinted glass fog with my breath. I stooped and cleared the side mirror with my coat sleeve, checking my reflection. With a shiver, I drew in a frigid lungful of air then released it slowly through pursed lips, scissoring my fingers around an invisible cigarette. Impressed with how I looked, I shook back my hood and took another invisible drag.
“Seriously?” Misty’s cackle rang out through the hushed parking lot, causing me to throw down my imaginary cigarette and bury my head in my hood.
“What are you doing, you dork?” she asked, her voice closer. I turned toward her as she stepped into the light, her hair wet with snow, a wisp of real smoke curling, rising above her. “You’ll like this brand better—it has more flavor.” The red glow on the end of the cigarette grew brighter as she sucked on the filter.
“Won’t you get in trouble if your dad smells smoke on you?”
“What’s he going to do, send me to rehab? He already took my phone, thanks to you.”
“Cigarette rehab, is that a real thing?” I asked.
Misty glared and took another drag. “You know, I used to be a lot like you. A pampered little princess, my parents’ pride and joy. A good girl. Then one day, I woke up and realized I was only being good because I was afraid of being bad. I was a fake. Pretending to be perfect so I wouldn’t disappoint my parents. So I changed. Now I call the shots.”
“Glad you can call something,” I muttered.
“Was that a crack about my phone? Don’t worry, I’ll have it back by this time tomorrow. Wait and see.” She flicked ashes to the wet pavement. “I bet you’ve never done one bad thing in your entire pathetic life. Seriously, how do you stand yourself?”
“Maybe I like how I am,” I said, knowing she could see right through me.
“Yeah. Sure you do. That’s why you’re standing out here in the dark pretending to smoke. Here,” she said, offering her cigarette to me.
The burning tobacco caused my pulse to quicken. Something tingled inside, a maddening mixture of thrill and dread—like riding a rollercoaster up the track. I formed a V with my fingers and extended my hand, on the edge of the most exhilarating moment of my life.
Misty handed the cigarette off to me and I brought it to my lips with shaking fingers, knowing my next breath would leave me forever changed.