When Ava Mack woke up on that December morning, there was only one thing on her mind: New Moon Girls magazine. All other facets of reality eluded her. She was totally unconcerned with the lovely way in which the moonlight was pouring in through the glass panes of her room like milk. She was even less impressed by the new layer of snow that sparkled boastfully on her front lawn. Every square foot of space in her mind was occupied by the heavy knowledge that the independent bookstore down the road now carried the first edition issue of New Moon Girls magazine.
Ava looked up from her coffee to meet the gaze of her brother, Ryan. Ryan was a year older and thought he was far superior to his sister in terms of maturity. He wore a flannel shirt with a picture of a teddy bear on it as proof.
“What are you doing up at four o’clock in the morning?”
Disinterested, Ava took another gulp from her mug.
“Flanagan’s opens at six,” she said, shrugging. “Jennifer and Ginger are already waiting for me outside.”
Ryan, who had just finished reading The Catcher in the Rye for school, rolled his eyes in the most dramatic way possible.
“You used to do things that matter,” he said, mournfully. “You used to cry on carousels.”
“I’ll see you later,” Ava said.
Jennifer and Ginger lingered on the front porch, hands balled in their pockets, kicking up snow with the tips of their combat boots.
“It’s about time,” Ginger said.
The three girls walked in a line down the road. They walked in the street, since nobody would be coming by anyway, heads slightly bowed from the wind.
“Watch Angela and Christine and Pete already be there,” said Jennifer, caustic. Ava and Ginger didn’t answer. Ginger’s chapped lips trembled in the cold.
Sure enough, Angela and Christine and Pete were already there, standing in a line on the sidewalk, in front of the little brick shop.
Some time ago, Ava was friends with Pete Daly. Christine Sisler, too. It was Christine, actually, who had introduced Ava to New Moon Girls magazine. That was before Christine dyed her hair its signature red hue.
“We were here, first,” Angela said as the girls approached.
“So what?” said Ginger, “We’re not getting in line.”
“But – “
“Hey,” Christine said, “Let’s get in a line. But, like, a horizontal line. On the sidewalk. Let’s make it fair.”
They all fell into place. Ava found herself in the center, next to Christine, a foot away from the front door. The shoulders of their peacoats were touching. Soon the only sound to be heard was their quiet breaths, blowing clouds of white vapor into the air.
They all looked up at the two windows on the second floor of the store. One window had turned yellow with artificial light. They all knew that Liza Flanagan was in there, probably still in her pajamas, drifting sleepily through the tiny rooms, like a dream. Oblivious to the soldiers lined up outside. Suddenly, her shadow made an inkblot in the saturated yellow, and the soldiers all held their breaths.
The shadow disappeared at once. The soldiers leaned forward on their toes, not daring to touch the door until Liza opened it for them.
“She’s coming down the stairs,” Pete whispered. “If you listen closely, you can hear her footsteps. She should be out any second.”
Pete’s prediction rang true as the door to the bookstore opened with a loud creak. Ava began to take a step forward, but Jennifer held her back. Ava watched as the figure of Liza Flanagan appeared in the doorway, wearing a robe and slippers.
“Usually no one comes until at least nine o’clock,” Liza muttered under her breath, yawning. “But I never turn away customers. Come on in, kids.”
One by one, the anxious readers stepped into the bookstore. Ava was too excited to appreciate the way the warped hardwood floor under her feet creaked softly, or the monstrous silhouettes of creatures that were created by the dark shadows of bookshelves. Liza let each reader in, closed the door behind her, and flicked on a light. At once the store was illuminated, and Ava looked about, searching for the magazine.
“Are you here for anything in particular? Usually there’s a big book release when kids come this early, but I don’t know of any blockbuster that just came out…” Liza rambled, crossing her arms and shuffling her feet. Ava nodded, still looking for the magazine.
To her right, Christine gasped. Ava watched as she ran to a display in the corner of the room. Angela and Pete followed close behind.
“Come on, Ava! We can’t let them get there first!” Ginger grabbed Ava’s hand and pulled her along, Jennifer at their feet. The three girls ran to the display. Ava couldn’t believe it – she was going to get the first edition copy. She would read it voraciously, and rub it in Ryan’s face when she got home.
The three girls reached the display, but not fast enough. Angela, Christine, and Pete were already there, grabbing at the thin stack of magazines as quickly as they could. Ava’s heart sank as she saw that the display was now empty. How had that happened? She’d done all she could to get the magazine, and now her efforts would be futile.
“Hey! You don’t need two copies!” Ginger stole a copy from Angela’s hands, hiding it behind her back. “And Christine, you don’t need three! Give us some of them, would you?”
“Give that back!” Angela shrieked, reaching behind Ginger and snatching the copy from her hands. She held both copies tightly. “My little sister wanted one.”
“I told my cousin I’d get her a copy, too.” Christine said, shrugging. “And one for my aunt.”
Ava crossed her arms. She wanted to speak, but her thoughts were jumbled. They would never listen to her. Christine had changed since they’d been friends. Pete only had one copy. And Angela had never gotten along with Ava.
“Please, guys,” Jennifer began. “We all love this magazine, right? We should each get a copy. Your family can get the magazine somewhere else. But we’re here, right now.”
“Jennifer’s right,” Ava said, suddenly finding the right words. “We’re all fans. I bet the writers of New Moon Girls would be upset, if they knew we were fighting instead of reading it together. Remember how we used to recite the articles by heart, Christine? How we used to cut out the pictures and make collages?”
Christine nodded solemnly. She loosened her grip on the magazines, let the hand holding them fall to her side.
“Pete – you never liked reading magazines, until we showed you this one. And Angela, we might not get along all the time, but we both love this magazine. So I think we should each get a copy and read them together. Like we used to.”
Pete nodded. He nudged Angela on the shoulder.
“I guess you’re right,” Angela said, beginning to smile. “It’s not really a competition. Take this one.” Angela handed Ava her second copy. Ava grinned. She could tell a new connection had formed between her and Angela – one that would continue to grow.
“Here’s one for you, Jennifer. And one for Ginger,” Christine handed the girls her extra copies. They thanked her with a smile.
“Got what you came for?” Liza Flanagan appeared behind Ava, peering into the circle of kids. “New Moon Girls Magazine! Great choice. Now, come pay before you run home.”
Ava followed Liza to the register, clutching her copy of the magazine to her chest. Her friends followed behind her, flipping through the pages and whispering excitedly. Ava looked down at her magazine as satisfaction filled her with joy. She couldn’t wait to get home and start reading.