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NO ONE IS STARING AT YOU, I promised myself. No one is staring at you. No one is staring at you.
But, because I couldn't lie convincingly even to myself, I had to check.
As I sat waiting for one of the three traffic lights in town to turn green, I peeked to the right — in her minivan, Mrs. Weber had turned her whole torso in my direction. Her eyes bored into mine, and I flinched back, wondering why she didn't drop her gaze or look ashamed. It was still considered rude to stare at people, wasn't it? Didn't that apply to me anymore?
Then I remembered that these windows were so darkly tinted that she probably had no idea if it was even me in here, let alone that I'd caught her looking. I tried to take some comfort in the fact that she wasn't really staring at me, just the car.
My car. Sigh.
I glanced to the left and groaned. Two pedestrians were frozen on the sidewalk, missing their chance to cross as they stared. Behind them, Mr. Marshall was gawking through the plate glass window of his little souvenir shop. At least he didn't have his nose pressed up against the glass. Yet.
The light turned green and, in my hurry to escape, I stomped on the gas pedal without thinking — the normal way I would have punched it to get my ancient Chevy truck moving.
Engine snarling like a hunting panther, the car jolted forward so fast that my body slammed into the black leather seat and my stomach flattened against my spine.
''Arg!'' I gasped as I fumbled for the brake. Keeping my head, I merely tapped the pedal. The car lurched to an absolute standstill anyway.
I couldn't bear to look around at the reaction. If there had been any doubt as to who was driving this car before, it was gone now. With the toe of my shoe, I gently nudged the gas pedal down one half millimeter, and the car shot forward again.
I managed to reach my goal, the gas station. If I hadn't been running on vapors, I wouldn't have come into town at all. I was going without a lot of things these days, like Pop-Tarts and shoelaces, to avoid spending time in public.
Moving as if I were in a race, I got the hatch open, the cap off, the card scanned, and the nozzle in the tank within seconds. Of course, there was nothing I could do to make the numbers on the gauge pick up the pace. They ticked by sluggishly, almost as if they were doing it just to annoy me.
It wasn't bright out — a typically drizzly day in Forks, Washington — but I still felt like a spotlight was trained on me, drawing attention to the delicate ring on my left hand. At times like this, sensing the eyes on my back, it felt as if the ring were pulsing like a neon sign: Look at me, look at me.
It was stupid to be so self-conscious, and I knew that. Besides my dad and mom, did it really matter what people were saying about my engagement? About my new car? About my mysterious acceptance into an Ivy League college? About the shiny black credit card that felt red-hot in my back pocket right now?
''Yeah, who cares what they think,'' I muttered under my breath.
That's the light queen chess piece up front on the cover, isn't it? If it's not, none of my guesses on the symbolism will make sense, but here goes:
Strategically, the queen is considered one of the most vital and powerful pieces in chess. The object is to capture your opponent's king to win the game, but the king is not very powerful as a playing piece -- the queen is the one with all the moves. If you capture your opponent's queen then it's almost inevitable that you'll get checkmate and win the game -- without her, the opponent is powerless against you (assuming you still have yours, of course!). So capturing the queen is a big fat goal in the game.
The other piece in the picture is a dark pawn. Pawns were long considered throw-away pieces, but there's a new (well, new for an ancient game like chess!) theory of play which considers them much more sneaky powerful, important pieces. The symbolism for the piece in the cover picture could go either way, but I can't help but notice there's only one in the picture....