"You're a brat," her mother says when she's old enough to understand tone but not meaning, and Lavana weeps until her eyes hurt and her throat is sore.

No one gives her a tissue or a hug, so she drys her eyes on a towel.


"Worthless," says her mother, and alternatively Lavana imagines shouting back, imagines the light falling and cracking her skull, imagines proving her wrong.

At the playground a boy makes a grab at her Cleffa doll and she yells, "Hey! What are you doing! That's mine."

"Didn't know," he says. Then he smiles at her and asks, "Can I hold it - please?"

He waits for an answer and somewhere in her head a little girl thinks, this is power. "No. What, are you too poor to get your own? Or does your mummy not care enough to buy it?"

He runs, and her laugh sounds like freedom.


"Don't offend Lavana," new kids to the area are told. "She's a big, bad bully. She's the Play Ground Queen."

At school the girls gather around her like bug-types drawn to honey. They glow when she hands them saccharine words and sob when she cuts into them, her tongue as sharp as her mother's nails. She favors short skirts and cropped shirts that show her belly, puts on her makeup every morning. It takes longer, the days that she's been crying.

Lavana is beautiful - ("At least I'm not a hag, like you!") - she is - ("You're a painted fake, daughter. What kind of man would love you?") - and she likes the way boys' eyes follow her in the halls.

("What a slut!")

Lavana likes it at the top.

("No one likes you.")


She sits in front of her mirror. And she whispers, "Not skinny enough." She pinches her stomach.

"Not smart enough." Jabs at her head.

"Not pretty enough." Slaps her face.

"Not nice enough" Bites down on her lip.

"Hate you," she tells her reflection. Punches herself as tears sting in her eyes.

Then she takes out her make up kit, until the boo-boos disappear.


"Team Dim Sun, huh?" Lavana will say, an eyebrow arched. "Count me in."

(You see, Mom, you see?)

Kincaid says that someday, everyone will know their names.


She pushes Ice up against a wall one evening. His hair is soft, his lips are chapped from hanging about Almia Castle.

"Use lip balm!" she snaps, as they pause for breathe.

He chuckles, and for a moment it's like he's laughing at her. She digs her nails into her sides and bites down on his lip, hard. He pushes her away with one hand, raising the other to touch his bleeding lip. "You've got problems, you know that?"

She laughs and rakes a nail down his cheek. "Guess you'll have to find someone else to spend the night with," she says, and watches him walk away.


The Sinis Trio falls to discussing the latest thorn in their sides.

"Need to beat her," Heath declares, and she just rolls her eyes at his stupid loyalty. Trying to figure Heath out is like digging on stone - there's nothing there to find.

"She's just a slip of a ranger, the little brat. I'll crush her next time," Lavana swears. The girl is everything she despises, pretty without trying, a cuteness that's not artificial, likable when she shouldn't be, and oh so kind and pure. The type who doesn't need to claw her way up because the world falls into line before her.

Ice smiles knowingly, and she digs her manicured nails into her palms with anger. "What's the dreamy look for Ice? You like that pathetic nobody?"

"She's - intriguing."

"More like a pain. I doubt she can kiss to save her immature life, Ice-dear."

"Dim Sun enemy," Heath clarifies, as if that should end all idea of fraternization.

"Oh, shut up." She groans.


The ranger-twerp beats them again, and Lavina wants to tear her apart but she can't. So she runs. They catch her after only two days anyway - find her dirty in the corner of a restaurant, nibbling at slice of toasted bread. "Hey!" she snaps, as they put her in cuffs. "Watch my nails!"

"Your nails, Princess," one of the rangers says, "are the least of your problems."

The brat comes to see her, tagging along with the senior rangers as they question her for Dim Sun secrets and the others' whereabouts. She ignores them, examining the backs of her hands.

The brat lingers after the rest go. "Um, do you know anything about Ice?" she asks, tremulously.

Lavana stares at her, pink hair limp, clothes torn, eyes burning. "Isn't that sweet. The ickle ranger likes the big bad Sinis Trio leader. I don't think he goes for your type, though. I doubt you kiss like I do. Try some lip stick, you poor dear."

The girl reddens and makes to leave in a huff. Lavana calls after her, voice like a lemon in fresh wounds "He doesn't care about you. He never did and never will, whatever he pretends."


They leave her alone.

The food is filled with carbohydrates. The harsh lighting in the cell is ruining her make up. The girl passes by sometimes looking vaguely smug.

Lavana counts her blemishes, and waits for the universe to give her something back.


It doesn't.