The Nicest of the Popular Girls by L Mari Harris

The popular girls will see the star quarterback talking to one of the nobody girls, his foot hiked up against the locker door, shoulder pads slung over one shoulder, and their bodies will tense, ears cocked in their direction, shushing each other with a hiss.

After the star quarterback ambles off, they will exhale in unison. Will rush over to the nobody girl in a cloud of their mothers’ perfume, highlighted tendrils of shiny long hair dancing in the afternoon rays.

You know Joe? You know Joe? How do you know Joe?

They will think the nobody girl has something they don’t.

The nicest of the popular girls will say “I think he likes you!” and she will actually mean it.

The others will jerk their heads at this. Narrow their eyes at the nicest of the popular girls. They will remind her she’s only with the popular girls because she’s the best cheerleader on the squad, the only one of them strong enough to do a three-rotation back flip from the top of the pyramid while Queen blasts from the loudspeakers.

They will remind the nicest of the popular girls she lives in the middle of town where the houses are showing neglect, that they’ve given her a pass for this, that she shouldn’t take their generosity for granted.

The nicest of the popular girls will feel the thumpthump of her heart in her throat. Will think the air always feels a little colder standing at the edge of the popular girls, how the warm clutches of their arms around her shoulders never quite takes the chill off. Will feel the nobody girl watching, waiting. The nicest of the popular girls will wait, too. Will wait to see who will be the one to shove her away.

L MARI HARRIS — L Mari’s most recent work has appeared or is forthcoming in matchbook, Ponder Review, (mac)ro(mic), Milk Candy Review, CRAFT, among others. She works in the tech industry and lives in the Ozarks. Follow her on Twitter @LMariHarris and read more of her work at

Art by LINDA HAWKINS — Linda is a recently retired paralegal, living on California’s beautiful central coast with her husband. She is a self-taught watercolorist, and now with her freedom from a work schedule she has time to pursue her painting passion. In between brush strokes, she and her husband enjoy the great outdoors and traveling to far off places. Linda loves to capture their adventures on camera, and as a result has plenty of resource material from which to paint. You can find her on Twitter @lindamayhawkins.