I can’t even start to tell you …)(Don’t mention it. And don’t cry. A cheery face is worth triple A bonds. Besides, you have to answer thephone.)(What phone?)The phone rang.(That phone.)Gillian blew her nose and said a practice”Hello” to make sure her voice wasn’t shaky. Then she took a deep breath and picked up the receiver.”Gillian?”Her fingers clenched on the phone. “Hi, David.””Look, I just wanted to make , sure you were okay. I didn’t even ask you that when-you know, this afternoon.””Sure, I’m okay.” Gillian didn’t need Angel to tell her what to say to this. “I can handle myself, youknow.””Yeah. But Tanya can be pretty intense sometimes. After you left she was-well, forget that.”He doesn’t want to say anything bad about her, Gillian thought. She said, “I’m fine.””It’s just-” She could almost feel the frustration building on the other side of the line. And then David burst out as if something had snapped, “I didn’t know!””What?””I didn’t know she was-like that! I mean, she runs the teen helpline and she’s on the Centralia relief committee and the Food Cupboard project and .. . Anyway, I thought she was different. A good person.”Conscience twinged. “David, I think she is some of the things you thought. She’s brave. When that window-“”Quit it, Gillian. You’re those things. You’rebrave and funny and-well, too honorable for your own good. You tried to give Tanyaanother chance.” He let out a breath. “But, anyway; you might have guessed, we’re finished. I told Tanya that. And now…” His voice changed. Suddenly he laughed, sounding as if some burden had fallen offhim. “Well, would you like me to drive you to the party Saturday night?”Gillian laughed, too. “I’d like it. I’d love it.” (Oh, Angel-thank you!)She was very happy.The rest of the week was wonderful. Everyday she wore something daring and flattering scavenged from the depths of her closet. Every day she seemed to get more popular. People looked up when shewalked into a room, not just meeting her eyes, but trying to catch her eye. They waved to her from a distance. They said hello up and down the halls. Everyone seemed glad to talk to her, and pleased if shewanted to talk to them. It was like being on a skyrocket, going higher and higher.And, always, her guide and protector was with her. Angel had come to seem like a part of her, the most savvy and ingenious part. He provided quips, smoothed over awkward situations, gave advice about who to tolerate and who to snub. Gillian was developing an instinct for this, too. She was gaining confidence in herself, finding new skills every day. She was literally becoming a new person.She didn’t see much of Amy now. But Amy had Eugene, after all. And Gillian wasso busy that she never even got to see David alone.The day of the party she went to Houghton with Amanda the Cheerleader and Steffi the Singer. They laughed a lot, got whistled at everywhere, and shopped until they were dizzy. Gillian bought a dress and ankle boots-both approved by Angel.When David picked her up that night, he let out a soft whistle himself.”I look okay?””You look…” He shook his head. “Illegal, but also sort of spiritual. How do you do that?”Gillian smiled.Macon the Wallet’s house was the house of a rich guy. A fleet of artsy reindeer made out of some kind of white twigs andglowing with tiny lights graced the lawn. Inside, it was all high ceilings and tracklighting, oriental rugs, old china, silver. Gillian was dazzled.(My first real party! I mean, my first Popular Party. And it’s even kind of, sort offor me.)(Your first real party, and it’s all for you. The world is your oyster, kid. Go out and crack it.)Macon was coming toward her. Other people were looking. Gillian paused in the doorway of the roomfor effect, aware that she was making an entrance-and loving it.Her outfit was designer casual. A black minidress with a pattern of purple flowers so dark it could hardly be distinguished. The soft, crepey material dung to her like a second skin. Matte black tights. And of course the ankle boots. Not much makeup; she’d decided on the fresh, soft look for her face. She’d darkened her lashes just enough to make the violet of her eyes a startling contrast.She looked stunning… and effortless. Andshe knew it very well.Macon’s hooded eyes roved over her with something like suppressed hunger.”How’s it going? You’re looking good.””We feel good,” Gillian said, squeezing David’s arm.Macon’s eyes darkened. He looked at the intersection of Gillian’s hand and David’s arm as if it offended him.David looked back dispassionately, but a sort of wordless menace exuded from him. Macon actually took a step back. But all he said was, “Well, my parents are gonefor the weekend, so make yourself at home. There should be food somewhere.”There was food everywhere. Every kind of munchy thing. Music blasted from the den, echoing all over the house. As they walked in, Cory greeted them with, “Hey, guys! Grab a glass, it’s going fast.”When he’d said that he would round up a keg last week, Gillian had foolishly misheard it as “a cake.”Now she understood. It was a keg of beer and everybody was drinking.And not just beer. There were hard liquor bottles around. One guy was lying on a table with his mouth open while a girl poured something from a rectangular bottle into it.”Hey, Jill, this is for you.” Cory was trying to give her a plastic glass with foam overflowing the top.Gillian looked at him with open scorn. Shedidn’t need Angel’s help for this.