I have solid plans. Not just for today or tomorrow, but for the next ten years. My plans are going to take me places. And yet, here I am in the same old place, listening to Kiara. She’s been my best friend since second grade, and she’s great. She is. But lately I’ve started to wonder what we have in common.
We’re doing what we usually do after school, hanging out in her room. She has spent the last twenty minutes talking about the utter cuteness of Omar Bari’s eyes. She thinks they are so deep. Then she compares them to the amazing wonder of Liam Parks’s biceps. Liam does have freakishly large biceps. I’ve told Kiara I don’t have time to waste on guys. They only cause trouble. But does she listen? No. She is not a listener—she’s a talker. Her parents regularly threaten her with duct tape. They’ve never actually taped her mouth shut, but they keep rolls of tape on hand.
My method to shut her up is to shut myself down. I stop making eye contact. I don’t give her the smallest Uh-huh. It usually works. Like now, she finally flops onto her bed with her tablet. I sit at her desk, push my glasses into place (they’re always sliding down my nose) and get started on my homework. Three whole minutes of silence pass.
“Omigod, Jane. Can you believe this?” Kiara taps the tablet screen. “It says my animal spirit totem is the coyote. As if.”
“Another online personality quiz?” I ask.
“Yeah. And it’s so wrong.” She tosses back her ponytail. “I should have got the deer. At least they’re pretty. Or the wolf. Wolves are cooler than coyotes.”
I shake my head. “I don’t know why you keep doing those things.”
“Because they’re fun.”
“How are they fun?” I ask. “You hardly ever like the results.”
Kiara looks surprised. “No way. Remember the fairy one I did yesterday? It said I was a flower fairy, and it described me perfectly. It said I’m sweet as nectar and love being around happy people. Totally accurate.”
I sigh. “Yeah, but look what it took to get that. Three times doing the quiz and changing your answers until you got the fairy you wanted. Just like the dog one before that. You flipped when it said you were a golden retriever because you wanted to be a poodle. Or the Disney Princess one that said you’re Cinderella and then Snow White before you got Jasmine.”
Kiara shrugs. “So? You know how they work. It’s multiple choice. Sometimes it’s hard to decide which answer to pick. Let’s say there’s a picture of a grassy meadow, a beach and a full moon. I can’t choose which one I like best if I like all of them.”
“But,” I argue, “aren’t you supposed to go with your first instinct?” I can’t believe I say that. I’m not big on following instincts.
“Yes.” Kiara nods. “But it doesn’t always work.”
“Because,” I say, “they don’t work. They’re garbage.”
She frowns and smooths the cover on her bed. It’s pale purple with big white flowers. “They aren’t garbage. They help me get to know myself. It’s like Ms. Kalkat says. Fourteen is an age when people are figuring out who they are.”
Ms. Kalkat is our teacher for Career and Personal Planning class. We’ve been learning about personal growth. Thanks to Sherry, my mother—or no thanks to her—I feel done with personal growth already.
“So”—Kiara throws me a defiant look—“I’m going to do the spirit-totem quiz over, and I’ll prove it.”
“Have you even read what it says about the coyote spirit totem?” I ask.
I narrow my eyes. “Then how do you know it’s wrong?”
“Fine. I’ll read it.” She picks up her tablet and starts reading aloud. “Coyote spirit messages may appear as jokes to remind you not to take things too seriously.”
“Hmm,” I murmur. “What else?”
She keeps reading. “Its ways are indirect, but the coyote is a teacher with a sense of humor and hidden wisdom. Coyote wisdom reveals the truth behind illusion. Don’t be tricked by appearances.” She snorts at this. “As if I would be.”
“That actually sounds pretty cool.”
“You think?” Kiara is doubtful. “I’d still feel better with a deer animal spirit. Deer are beautiful.”
“I like the part about revealing the truth behind illusion.” I should tell her why I like it. I’d like her to see that all the so-called truth in these quizzes is an illusion. But I’m tired of arguing about it.
“And look at this,” Kiara says. “Coyote wisdom often uses trickery to deliver its message. That’s interesting.”
Coyote wisdom is interesting. Trickery to deliver a message? I’ve got to remember that. Maybe I could use it to cure Kiara’s quiz craziness? In a way, trickery is what I’ve got planned for Sherry. “Did I tell you about the real quiz I found online?”
“Real quiz?” Kiara squints suspiciously. “You mean something boring like a math quiz?”
“No. Actually, it’s not a quiz. It’s a questionnaire.”
She rolls her eyes.
“Let me explain. Sherry’s boyfriend dumped her, like they all do. So she’s a mess. Again. It doesn’t make sense. She keeps falling for the same type of guy over and over. It’s insane.”
Kiara nods sympathetically. “Your mom is…” She doesn’t finish her sentence, but I can fill in the blank. My mom is pathetic.
“So anyway,” I continue, “I’ve given up trying to make her stop seeing guys. She says she can’t. But I figured there had to be something I could do. So I looked online at some psychology stuff. And I found this questionnaire. It’s supposed to help people get to know each other. I mean, truly know each other. They got some complete strangers to ask each other these questions, and guess what happened?”
“Some of the strangers fell in love.”
Kiara stares. “Like, actual love?”
“I know, right? So I want to give it to Sherry. After she’s had a few days to recover. If she agrees to try it with the next guy,” I say, “who knows? Maybe she’ll be able to screen out the losers before she falls for them.”
“And find her true love?”
I frown. “I don’t know about that. I’m hoping it stops the endless drama.”
“Do you think she’ll do it?” Kiara asks.
“Hard to know. But what about you? If you must do quizzes, why not do professional ones?” I definitely plan to be a professional. “There are lots of them online.”
“Jane, you’re a genius.”
I grin. The cure was that easy? “I try.”
Kiara sits up and leans toward me. “I’d like to see that questionnaire.”
“Yeah? I printed it out. Just a sec.” I reach into my pack and pull out my Sherry folder. I like to stay organized. Someone has to.
The questionnaire is a mere two pages, and Kiara takes it eagerly. “This is it? It can’t be too hard.” She’s smiling at the paper like she just met an actual flower fairy. “I could use this.”
She reads out random questions. “Would you like to be famous? What’s your perfect day? Ahh! This is perfect!”
A queasy ripple of worry spreads through my gut. “Kiara.