Donna Cooner is the acclaimed author of “Skinny, Can’t Look Away,” and “Worthy.” A Texas native and graduate of Texas A&M University, Cooner currently lives in Fort Collins with her husband, a cat named Stu, and two chocolate Labradors, Roxanne and Murphy.
The following is an excerpt from “Screenshot.”
Each week, The Colorado Sun and Colorado Humanities & Center For The Book feature an excerpt from a Colorado book and an interview with the author. Explore the SunLit archives at coloradosun.com/sunlit
2019 Colorado Book Awards finalist for Young Adult Literature
Asha gives a happy sigh and rips the paper to shreds with great satisfaction. Inside the box is a knitted hat in a dark plummy purple—Asha’s favorite color. She pulls it out, and she and I ooh and ahh over it.
“I made it,” Emma says proudly. She taught herself to knit last month. “See that ribbon woven in across the center?”
Asha and I both nod.
“It’s from the yellow ribbon we got for participating in the science fair in eighth grade. Remember?”
Of course we remember. Asha pulls the hat on over her dark hair and grins. “I’ll wear it tomorrow on the slopes,” she promises.
And I’m sure we’ll see a selfie. #IAmAshaMirza wearing a hat.
“So what else did you get today?” I ask.
Asha smiles widely. “My parents gave me a season pass to Steamboat.”
“Very cool,” I say, knowing that was tops on her list.
“And anything from Nate?” Emma asks with a sly smile.
“I haven’t opened his yet.” She points to a UPS box on the corner of the table.
“Give it to me.” Emma snatches a pair of scissors out of the drawer to cut open the packing tape, then hands the box back to Asha.
Asha digs around in the Styrofoam like a squirrel searching for a nut, then looks back up. “There’s nothing in here.”
“Keep looking,” I urge her. I wonder what Nate sent her.
Finally, Asha’s eyes widen and she pulls something out of the box with a “Ta-da!”
My mouth falls open. It’s a small pink shopping bag with a highly recognizable logo from an exclusive lingerie shop. I can’t even speak.
“Now I know why he wanted a pic after I tried it on,” Asha whispers. She reaches inside the bag and digs around in the tissue paper.
I can’t stand the suspense. “What is it?”
“Show us!” Emma yells.
Slowly, Asha pulls something out of the bag.
It is a red baby-doll nightie with tiny little spaghetti straps and lots of lace.
“Wow,” I say. Then say it again. “Wow.”
“He expects me to wear this?” Asha asks incredulously. She’s the kind of girl who wears a huge T-shirt and sweats to bed. There is nothing more opposite to Asha’s style than this lingerie. And that’s why it’s so funny.
Emma is trying to hide her giggles behind her hand.
I take the nightie from Asha, holding it up to the light. “Are you going to put it on?” I ask in disbelief. Honestly, it’s not something any of us would wear. It seems like a joke, a cliché from a movie.
Asha sighs, taking the nightie back from me. “I don’t know what Nate was thinking. It’s so not me.”
“Well, you could at least try it on and send him the picture,” Emma points out. “As a way to say thank you.”
“I’m not putting it on,” Asha says. She turns to Emma. “You do it.”
“I’m not doing it,” Emma says between giggles.
“It’s my birthday, so I get what I want,” Asha says, pushing the lace toward Emma. “And I want you to put it on.”
I’m still laughing, but then I see Asha’s face and I know she’s serious. Emma sees it, too, and suddenly, nothing about this is funny.
Emma folds her arms over her chest, chin stuck out defiantly. She gets to her feet, towering over Asha. “You can’t make me.”
Asha’s eyes narrow and she gets to her feet, too. “Looks like the space cadet woke up all of a sudden and got a backbone.”
My stomach squeezes. Suddenly, we’re back in middle school. Emma on one side and Asha on the other. Now Asha’s birthday will devolve into a fight. Nate’s stupid present has ruined everything.
Don’t say anything. Let them settle this.
But I can’t. My role as peacemaker has been years in the making. I step in between the two of them—arms stretched wide to keep them apart—and do the stupidest thing possible.
“I’ll put it on,” I say frantically. I take the scrap of red material from Asha’s fist and hold it against my body so they can see the ridiculousness of the idea.
Suddenly, they are both laughing. Evidently, the only thing more comical than Asha wearing this outfit is the idea of me trying it on.
“Yes, try it!” Emma says. “Better Skye than me.”
If I looked like you, Emma, I wouldn’t care about wearing this stupid thing.
“I was kidding,” I say. “Look. There’s no way this will fit me.” I shake my head vehemently, but instantly see the disappointment in their eyes. I will let them down and ruin the whole mood. But I have the power to fix it. I just have to make a fool out of myself for their entertainment.
Anything to keep the peace.
“Come on, Skye,” Asha wheedles.
And I give in. Like I always do. “Okay. Okay. Okay.” I take the tiny scrap of lace and head toward the bathroom. “Wait a second.”
“I’ll put on the right music,” Emma calls out as I slip into the bathroom and close the door behind me.
“I’ll put on the right music,” Emma calls out as I slip into the bathroom and close the door behind me.
What have I agreed to now?
I change quickly out of my jeans and T-shirt. Then I’m struck with the realization of just how small this thing really is. I tug the scratchy lace down over my chest. Fatty rolls of skin bulge up over the V-necked front and under my arms. It’s so tight around my stomach I can hardly breathe. The short lace hem only reaches to the tops of my fleshy thighs. I tug at the hem, uncomfortable even without an audience, but the material refuses to budge.
Everything about this is a huge mistake. But I remind myself it’s just Emma and Asha outside that door. Now that I’ve gone this far, I might as well go all the way. I remove my ponytail, lean over, and toss my hair into a wavy mess with my hands. When I flip back up, the reflection in the mirror is a bit scary—lots of bare skin and big hair—but I figure it will definitely do the trick and get major laughs from both of them.
I throw open the door and step out to the opening chords of Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way.” The music is blaring and I stride across the room in an exaggerated catwalk strut. The straps slip down off my bare shoulders, but I don’t care. My goal has been realized. I have saved the day. Asha and Emma are laughing so hard they can barely talk.
“Work it, girl,” Emma calls out.
And I do. I glance over one shoulder, tossing my hair back from my face in fake slow motion. Bending forward, I kiss the air in my best supermodel imitation.
Asha whistles and Emma is making loud whooping noises.
It is just us and I have to admit, I love making them laugh. I ramp it up even more, prancing and twirling across the room.
“Skye. Skye,” Asha calls out. “Look this way.”
I twist around to blow another kiss in her direction, but then catch my reflection in the sliding glass door. Everything stops. I freeze midspin, yanking up the straps on the nightgown. I don’t know who that girl is with all the red lace, curves, and skin—but it isn’t me.
“Oh. My. God,” Asha squeals. “Don’t quit now! That’s perfect.”
I look from my reflection to Asha. Her phone is out in her hand. She’s filming me.
No. No. No.
I panic, holding out my hands to block the camera. There were only supposed to be two people watching me prance around in practically nothing, but Asha just let the world in.
“Stop, Asha. Erase it,” I beg her, grabbing for the phone.
She holds the phone out of my reach. “It was live on ChitChat. I can’t erase it yet, but relax. I’ll delete it in fifteen minutes. Promise.”
I feel horror clutch at me. “Asha! Hundreds . . . thousands . . . of people can see it by then!” I sputter.
Asha rolls her eyes at my reaction. “Only if they’re on ChitChat, like, now.”
Fifteen minutes feels like a lifetime.
“Don’t freak out,” Asha says. There is a sudden tone in her voice, and a sharp flash in her eyes—almost too quick to catch, but I see it. She thinks I’m overreacting and silly. If we were ten years old again, she’d call me a baby and make me cry.
Emma is studying the video on her phone, via ChitChat. “You look great. Want to watch it?”
I shake my head frantically, determined not to cry. “No, I want it to go away.”
“And it will,” Emma says soothingly. “Just give it a few minutes, then, poof . . . your time as a supermodel is history.”
“I’m sorry. It’s just that I’m . . .” My voice dwindles off into silence.
“Crazy?” Asha asks. That edge is back in her voice.
“I was going to say super sensitive,” Emma says, patting me on the shoulder.
Asha rolls her eyes. “I don’t know why you have to be so self-conscious, Skye.”
Live in my skin for sixteen years. Maybe you’ll get it.
I take a deep breath. “Let me see it.”
“Are you sure?” Emma asks.
I nod, but I’m not sure at all.
Emma holds out her phone and I look down at the screen. The video starts with a pan of the room, then focuses in on the closed bathroom door. Suddenly, the door opens, and a girl stalks out in red lingerie. Oh. My. God. The back of my neck is on fire, the flames rushing up into my face.
That girl in the video is me.
I can’t stop watching. My skin is white and flabby, rolling over the tight strips of red in all the wrong places. But my face is so proud. So stupidly happy. Like I don’t even know how horrible I look.
Make it stop. In a panic, I push frantically at the screen.
“See. You look fine.” I hear Asha’s voice like it’s far away. “I told you. It isn’t that bad.”
People—everyone—will watch this video and think I want to be seen this way. I look up from the screen, eyes wide.
“Emma, take it down,” I beg.
She shrugs sympathetically. “You know I can’t.”
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