10 Things I Hate About Pinky - Sandhya Menon
CHAPTER 1 Pinky
The dead body was an especially nice touch.
Pinky Kumar grinned at her friend Ashish’s prone figure.
“This is amazing,” she said, touching Ash’s face. It looked waxy and pale, and his lips were the exact right color of death. Well, what death probably looked like, anyway. “You said Sweetie did this?”
“Yeah, she took a stage-makeup class last year,” Ash said, cracking open one translucent eyelid. “Does the hair look okay, though? I did that myself.”
“The hair’s poppin’,” Pinky said, lifting up a few strands of the purple wig he wore, the thick locks falling past his shoulders. “You look like you could start shredding on a guitar any minute.”
They were in Pinky’s living room, where they’d lit a dozen LED candles all over the furniture and floor and drawn the shades for extra ambience. Ashish was lying on the couch, his arms crossed on his chest, barely breathing. Of their friend group, he was the only one who’d been able to help her out on short notice; everyone else had already flitted off to various holiday destinations. Ash himself was leaving for Hawaii later today.
“Okay, do you have what you need now?” Ash said, shifting a bit on the couch. “This wig’s pretty itchy.”
“Almost.” Pinky stepped back and took a couple of pictures with her phone. “Let me get a wider angle.…”
“What charity’s this for, again?” Ash asked, peeking at her through the fringe of his wig.
“Don’t you ever listen when I talk?” Pinky asked, huffing a bit.
Ash laughed. “Seriously? This is, what, like, charity number thirty-two you’re helping this week?”
He had a point. “Fine, fine. It’s for the GoFundMe page of that nonprofit Super Metal Death,” Pinky said, taking another picture. “They used to be just Metal Death, but they really amped up their community-outreach efforts last year.”
Ash raised a thick eyebrow but kept his eyes closed. “Right, of course, Super Metal De—”
Pinky peeked out the big bay window. “Oh, crap.”
A white Porsche Cayenne had just pulled up, and a moment later, her mother stepped out, eyes hidden by her sunglasses, Hermès pantsuit still perfect after an eleven-hour workday. She speed walked to the house, her thin face wearing that same harried, pinched expression it always did.
For just a moment, Pinky felt a surge of panic. Her mom was, at the best of times, an extremely formidable adversary. But when she’d had a busy day at work and just wanted to unwind with her Sudoku book and was instead confronted by yet another one of Pinky’s special projects? Picture that girl from The Exorcist, with her head spinning, only instead of green vomit, Pinky’s mom wore pantsuits and spewed straight-up acid.
“What?” Ash said, cracking open one eyelid. He itched his scalp, and his fingers moved his wig so it was now half covering his face. “What’s wrong?”
But before Pinky could answer, her mom had opened the front door and was clip-clopping her way to the living room. Pinky stood there, frozen in indecision, and then it was too late. Her mom’s shadow came first, and then her mom herself emerged into the living room, her sunglasses pushed up on the top of her head.
As she took in the transformation her once-perfect living room had gone through, her face went from pinched to blank to confused to—
“Priyanka! What the hell!” Her mother rushed to the couch, frowning. “Is that a doll?”
Pinky opened her mouth to tell her the truth, but then a tiny pinprick of gleeful defiance bloomed in her chest. Why did her mom insist on calling her “Priyanka” when she was mad, when she knew perfectly well Pinky despised her full name? Also, why was her mom so quick to judge all the time? Why couldn’t she approach this situation with a joyful curiosity instead of freaking out? “No, it’s not a doll. It’s… a dead body.”
Her mother stopped short, her face going sallow. “No, it’s not,” she said, but there was a thread of uncertainty in her voice as she took in the candles and the dark room and thought about all the things she likely did not know about her delinquent daughter.
Pinky stared at her mom without smiling—and then grinned. “You totally believed me, didn’t you?”
Ash sat up, grinning too, and Pinky’s mother shrieked and jumped backward.
“It’s just Ashish, Mom,” Pinky said, giving him a fist bump. “Pretty sick beat face, right?”
“Pretty what?” her mother said, blinking at the big dude on her couch. “Ashish? Is that really you?”
“Hey, Ms. K,” Ash said, waving and pulling