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Veronica Lester is obsessed with self-help books. This morning she packed an oversized Longchamp bag full of her sacred texts — astrology, “psychology,” diet, and exercise — along with a large rolling suitcase that contains far too many clothes for a weekend road trip, and a makeup bag as disorganized as any hot girl’s makeup bag should be.
Her false eyelashes support an additional coat of black mascara, her lips are painted with satiny plum-coloured lipstick, her nut-brown skin is highlighted with expert swoops of gold bronzer, her face is topped by a pair of hand-coloured architectural brows. Head bent down and Hollywood face framed by waist-length black hair that must surely be extensions, but is in fact all her own, she raises a hand tipped with bright turquoise acrylic to open a filthy aluminum toolbox and with her talons select two jewel-toned markers — one deep green, one hot pink — and she begins to fill the first page of a sketchbook with a wave of spiky botany and bulbous, friendly, alien forms.
Today dressed in a skin-tight, cobalt velour tracksuit that she ordered online, she sits cross-legged in the tailgate of a blue hatchback that is parked on a small patch of asphalt at the bottom of Kensington Avenue, her small shape an indifferent sprite behind Richard and Dylan, who stand a few yards away smoking, the cornflower blue of Ontario sky cut with power lines far above them.
Richard Roberts, thirty-eight, has rented the car to drive the three of them down to Buffalo to go shopping. He’s brought his favourite camera, and it hangs from a shoulder strap ready to take pictures of old buildings as Richard digs through Buffalo record stores and thrift shops, buying as many new clothes as he can carry back across the border. Richard’s girlfriend, thirteen years younger, is absent from this trip because she is busy with her PhD and thoroughly uninterested in spending the long weekend in a car with some little girl fresh out of rehab and her weird friend Dylan who'll likely be headed there soon. Rich, the only one of the group who can drive, shares with Dylan an obsession with celebrity, the desire to shape their lives into rock and roll origin stories, the stories of the greats, the stories of men who have Made It. (Veronica, despite her love of attention, cares nothing for this.)
Dylan is here to prove herself on Route 66. Not to anyone in particular, since obviously no one is watching, but she knows she’s got to become a Big Deal so she can be sure that all the girls and boys who were ever mean to her were wrong. She’s twenty-seven, messy bowl cut, round kitten face, dressed in skinny black jeans and a short-sleeved blue button-down like a sitcom mechanic would wear, name embroidered in a circle over her heart. She desperately wants to be cool.