Lunatic Fringe
smart,” she said with more than a
little disappointment.
    Renee snorted. “Yep. Does that bother
you?”
    Lexie blinked back unexpected
tears.
    “ Whoa, girl. It’s okay. You
PMSing or something?” Renee said, stroking Lexie’s
shoulder.
    “ No. Well, yeah, but no,”
Lexie said. “I just . . . This is all a lot for me to digest. I
just feel . . .” Ashamed, embarrassed,
stupid . “. . . stupid.”
    Renee grasped Lexie’s chin and pulled
her face close. Lexie cast her eyes downward, but Renee shook her
chin, forcing Lexie’s eyes to meet her own.
    “ You are not stupid.” Renee
said.
    Lexie tried to shake her head in
protest, but Renee held fast. “You need to work on your
self-esteem, mama. You understood everything I just said. You’ve
held your own when confronted by a hell of a lot of scary-ass women
with some radical-ass thoughts. You are getting an education and a
chance to get the hell out of your Podunk town. You are working
your tail off to better your situation when many women never get
that chance. You’re not afraid to ask questions and have your
assumptions challenged.” Her eyes blazed fierce, dark, and
deep.
    “ Don’t you dare call
yourself stupid. You are goddamned brilliant.”
    Lexie caught the fire in Renee’s eyes
and found that she believed her. In the company of these women,
Lexie felt stronger and smarter than she ever had. They made her
want to pursue her own greatness, whatever that might
be.
    “ Lexie,” Jenna asked from
across the table. “Blythe says you’re from around here.”
    Renee dropped her hand, and Lexie wiped
her eyes and nodded. “Wolf Creek. It’s like fifty miles
east.”
    “ Neat,” Sharmalee said,
twirling the ends of her hair. “Do you miss your
trailer?”
    “ Sharm!” Hazel bolted to
sitting and slapped Sharmalee on the arm.
    “ Ow! What?”
    “ That’s fucked up,” Mitch
chuckled from Blythe’s lap.
    “ That’s hella rude,” Corwin
said.
    “ No it’s not! There are a
lot of trailers around here! I’ve never seen so many
before!”
    “ You’re from India!” Hazel
shouted.
    “ They don’t have trailers
in India! And it’s not like I’m from Dharavi .”
    “ I grew up in a house,”
Lexie said.
    “ See?” Hazel said,
declaring herself the moral superior.
    “ Oh. Cool. I didn’t mean--”
Sharmalee said.
    Lexie smiled and waved away her
apology.
    “ Oh!” Sharmalee
straightened, as if struck with a great epiphany. “We should get
Lexie to help us with the werewolves!”
    “ Hey, shut it!” Renee
said.
    “ Renee . . .” Corwin
scolded.
    “ Don’t silence me,” Renee
shot back.
    “ You were silencing Sharm!”
Hazel shouted.
    “ Sharm was speaking out of
turn.”
    “ There are no turns here,”
Jenna said.
    “ Christ, I’m trying to
protect us.”
    “ Lexie’s one of us,” Jenna
said. “Or at least she could be.”
    Blythe remained silent as the girls’
exchange played out. Renee laid back in a huff, downing the final
sip of wine.
    After a long and disconcerting silence,
Lexie asked, “Werewolves?”
    Hazel leapt up. “Let’s play a game!”
Blythe rolled her eyes and Mitch groaned, burying his face in
Blythe’s arm. Lexie tensed.
    “ What do you think,
Blythe?” Corwin said. “Lexie can know, right?”
    Renee bit her lip.
    “ Let’s just enjoy ourselves
tonight,” Blythe said. “We’re having such a nice time. Let’s not
bring all that darkness in right now.”
    “ But tomorrow--” Sharmalee
said.
    “ Later,” Blythe
interrupted. She smiled at Lexie. “But I’d also like Lexie to be
around more.”
    “ How about Truth or Dare?!”
Hazel said.
    Lexie’s neck grew hot and her vision
narrowed as she said a silent prayer to any deity that might have
been listening. Thor or Zeus, perhaps, since the lightning was
cracking on unabated.
    “ That’s dumb, Hazel,” Renee
replied. Lexie relaxed. “The whole point of Truth or Dare is to
mack on the people at the party. I’ve already slept with

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