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Ebooks   ➡  Fiction  ➡  Young adult or teen  ➡  Romance

Quad Squad

Andrea

 

I can’t tell if Maya is mad at me or I’m mad at her but anyways I’m sick of it.

The way it works at lunch at Kennedy is if you’re old enough to drive you’re out of there as soon as the bell rings but if you’re not you’re stuck at school with losers who have nowhere to go and bring their own sandwiches from mom no thank you so you either have to try to get a ride with a guy who has a car but then it’s like oh shit I’m in a car with a bunch of stoners heading to some sketch place to smoke or worse you’re just with some senior with a beard axe murderer, so if you’re in ninth and you’re hungry you haul ass as soon as the bell rings so you can get to the DQ and get disgusting fries or something equally gross, fake-ass milkshakes, those are actually good though sometimes, I get the peanut butter shake oh my God those are so sick when you just want something tasty, and then haul ass back so you can get to fifth on time to be fucking bored out of your mind.

We were just starting walking and I was just checking my phone like a normal person and checking my makeup because after P.E. I’m always so gross and Maya said, “You’re not the problem, Andrea,” to me, like that was some consolation, like I’d been all worried about being the problem.

I was like then who is the problem, thinking it not saying it, maybe you’re the problem Maya, even though me and Maya are chill a lot of the time, it’s just she gets, so weird sometimes.

“It’s Sabrina,” she said kind of quietly but kind of not, and I was like, “Right?” because Sabrina has been totally ridiculous. Literally whenever Eric C. or one of those football guys who aren’t even on varsity walk by, Sabrina tosses her hair back which by the way isn’t even at all close to the fucking Pantene commercial she thinks it is, basically a bunch of flyaways and split ends but if she has any chance whatsoever does a total wanna be model walk, shoulders back sticking her little A cup boobs out, overcrossing her legs on every step like a retarded model like that’s why we call her SM, like to her face, for Supermodel, and she doesn’t even notice even though her full name is Sabrina Bernard, like wtf why would you be SM, she doesn’t even ask, she just smiles like it’s her name, because she knows she’d sound stupid for asking especially after a month, or else she thinks it’s because of S&M which everyone is supposed to think is so cool and sexy because it’s kinky but I think is totally gross.

There were like 6 or 7 or 8 or 9 of us, Karen and Naeli and kind of behind us Sasha and Tony, they are by law unallowed to go anywhere without each other, they are literally goals, and Sandra the Korean chick who just needs friends and everyone feels sorry for her because it’s her year abroad thing, like, wtf do they not they have high schools in Korea? Plus me and Maya and SM Sabrina and Jerry and Tim who everyone calls Ben and Jerry because it’s supposed to be funny and Jerry is tbh a little bit chubby kind of in the face though not that bad, a little bit cute, don’t tell anyone I said that, I saw him with his shirt off working on his dad’s car this one time and it wasn’t chubby at all it was like, oh my , but anyway we were all already out past the fountain near K Building, and it was like oh, well, let’s just go to DQ because we can’t think of anything else to do and nobody supposedly had any smoke even though I’m not all about that life, but I was kind of thinking it would be okay to just get a little buzzed but still be able to like, function in bio, which was why Maya was mad at me I think, even though I didn’t do anything and she had already said I wasn’t the problem, but the fact was that a lot of the people we were starting to hang with or at least go to DQ, with were kind of stoners, not full-on but you know what I mean, @KarenandNaeli also surprisingly Korean Sandra, and Maya’s dad is totally incarcerated for drugs and she hates all of that stuff and everyone knows it, but she was blaming me like I had forced them all to come, you could totally by the way tell she was ignoring me with her eyes but still like talking to me but only when there was other people in our conversation. That sounds stupid but believe me I’ve known Maya since forever and that’s exactly what she does, it’s so fake.

SM Sabrina kind of came up alongside me and said that maybe if I wasn’t doing anything that weekend I might want to hang with her and Rachel they were going to go to the mall, not the regular mall the outlet mall and I was supposed to be like, oh thank you so much for thinking of me, I’m so lucky you think I’m worth it to go to the stupid outlet mall to, but the truth was actually I do need new jeans, not like need them need them, but actually Brandy Melville has some cute stuff, so I said, “Yeah, no, sounds cool if I’m not doing anything,” even though or maybe because Rachel was going to be there and I haven’t seen her in like, forever, and obviously I wasn’t going to be doing anything, there’s never anything to do. Rachel never goes to DQ with us because she’s probably in the library studying some genius thing or in the office getting a medal for good behavior from the principal or some shit like that, or I don’t know. But not that I’m saying she’s stuck up because for a genius she’s surprisingly regular.

I said to SM, “How come Rachel never hangs out at the DQ?”

And SM said, “I don’t know, did you invite her?” like it’s my job to invite every single person who ever went to DQ, and Maya who wasn’t even in the conversation said, “I think Rachel has her thing after third or fourth on even days,” which meant that since it was an even day Rachel was probably already off campus going to her thing.

And suddenly Karen and Naeli who were like nowhere near the conversation, like six sidewalk sections ahead, suddenly turned around and were like “What is her thing, anyway?”

And I was all defensive, don’t ask me why, but I was like, “Rachel goes to a program, it’s a special Academy, on even days, but she’s cool.”

“Oh, yeah, no,” Karen said, “She’s totally cool.”

Naeli said, “I’m down with Rachel,” even though A. No one says I’m down with anymore and B. She so isn’t. I happen to know for a fact that Rachel would rather die than be stuck in a conversation with Naeli and her yoga pants, it’s like, okay, we all own yoga pants but at this point someone has to ask you do you own anything else?

So then we were heading back and I was getting this, like, ice cream headache from the gross, gross peanut butter shakes they make at DQ and I said “This tastes like literally if you smeared peanut butter on a dog’s ass and put it in a blender,” and then everyone for some reason laughing so hard, like Naeli was bent over and like spittle was coming out of her mouth onto the sidewalk and Karen was holding on to her shoulders like hugging herself and shaking and shit and Ben and Jerry spit out their, like, burgers and stuff on the little grass area, so gross but funny and everyone was acting like it was the funniest thing anyone ever said, like have they never heard a joke before but I was laughing too, totally losing my shit, even Korean Sandra who obviously has no idea what’s funny was laughing because if everyone else is laughing you laugh too, she was doing that weird thing of putting her hand over her mouth and losing her shit, like crying tears, but then I thought actually she probably is high and that made me feel bad for Maya because she was the only one who wasn’t really laughing, and she had asked, she definitely had specifically asked for me to not invite people if they were just going to get high and I don’t know what all happened in the DQ bathroom, I mean, it’s, like, a largeish group of people all 6 or 7 or or 8 or 9 of us, I mean I can guess when four of them aren’t even in line and you’re like where did everybody go, where they went, and I feel sort of bad, but still, I wish Maya wouldn’t be all bitchy about it, it’s just everybody laughing at something I said, and I kind of wished I wasn’t so mad at her or she wasn’t so mad at me but that’s kind of how it is when you’re best friends with someone which is kind of a middle school thing to call it, but that’s what we are.

And it just sucks because if you say something really funny like this tastes like literally if you smeared peanut butter on a dog’s ass and put it in a blender then obviously you want everyone to laugh like insanely crazy about it but not if they’re high, that just makes it not that funny, because if you’re high everything’s funny, but nothing counts.

And then Jerry said something like “Hey, Andrea, can I have some of your shake?” and then people were laughing some more, like gross who would want that shake that she said was gross, but I was in my head like oh my God he did not just say that because when my Mom was a kid, like a teenager or whatever, she was telling me, guys used to say, hey can I have some fries to go with that shake? And that meant like not your milkshake obviously and he was like staring at my ass when he said it, I’m not even joking with you, and I was like oh my God what a perv he totally knows he can get away with it by pretending that he’s talking about my milkshake and then I said, “You want some shake, you know where to come get it,” and kept moving on down the sidewalk in my new Adidas that have maroon stripes instead of basic black, just looking straight ahead, and only Naeli was fast about it and she was all “Oooh, guuurl!” and I was thinking okay wait, I hope I’m not being racist or anything, but I didn’t want to like respond to her because maybe this is like an African-American thing and I’m not black or whatever so I don’t know like the proper response? I was also thinking like, okay Jerry, two can play at this game, let’s see you take off your shirt and work on your dad’s car now, and he was like, “Maybe I will,” not about the shirt, about coming to get the shake, and I said, “okay, then, let’s see you try it,” but he was like, “But maybe I don’t like that flavor,” and Naeli was like “Oooh, girl!” again and I was like, okay, Naeli, enough already, you don’t have to say that every time he says anything, do you not have anything else you know how to say?

But then why, explain this to me, like who said what to who, or what happened, because by the time I was in bio and in my seat and putting my name on the top of my sheet of paper even though I had like, literally no idea what we were studying, but at least I know you put your name at the top of the piece of paper, how come at that moment I got a text from Rachel who wasn’t even there, and it was just a picture of Ben and Jerry’s Peanut Buttah Cookie Core, a pint, and a picture of a dogs ass and I was like, oh my God.

 

 

 

 

 

Tim

 

I fucking hate it that everyone calls us Ben and Jerry, my name’s Tim, not Ben, and yeah his name is Jerry, but so what, it’s not like the two of us are those old hippie fucking ice cre- anyway, okay, look, I’m over-explaining it, I know, okay, I know that, I always do that, you know what I mean, sorry if I’m over-over-explaining it, but I guess it’s like that with nicknames. Once people have one for you it sticks and then you’re pretty much fucked.

I mean Jerry is cool and all but let’s just say some stuff here that somebody needs to say: first of all, I taught him like literally everything, I mean, okay, literally everything? About skateboarding. He couldn’t even ollie or drop in or basically do anything but not fucking fall off when I met him. So when -- and I totally know this was happening -- but when Karen and Naeli and Andrea all those girls were after school all secretly but not that secretly snapchatting him doing some insanely simple fakie kickturn and getting all excited, it’s just totally unfair.

So I just took off. Usually I might stick around and kick it with the guys but I was like no way. I didn’t want to be Jerry’s little fucking sidekick and I was thinking about heading to the skate park and basically to be honest all I was really thinking about, so much , was Andrea, I mean basically always but especially after lunch when we all went to DQ and she was bent over laughing and all, like, you could see -- like, anyway. I mean I couldn’t not think about her, in fifth and sixth period I was like this dog or something that can’t even focus except on one thing, I was even saying to myself, to my like, body, God, get over it, but she is so hot, she was wearing those pants girls wear, whatever they’re called, and it’s like, well, I don’t want to be graphic or nothing, but your body basically can’t not respond to that.

At least, mine can’t. So I skated home and I was first one there and so I was basically on a mission and unexpectedly Mom came home and she was all “Tim, are you up there? Are you in your room?” and it was so embarrassing, so embarrassing, I can’t even believe I’m talking about this, and in my head I was like, sorry Andrea if this is insulting, but also I had this, like, fantasy about her coming to my house because she wanted to try on a new wetsuit and show her how to surf, and oh my God, but in my head I even knew that this was a, like, a stupid fantasy, because I don’t even know if she wants to learn how to surf or knows that I surf, but more stupid, way more because she so so so doesn’t even know I exist.

I mean, like, literally if I died tomorrow she’d go to DQ with everyone and all that and call Jerry Ben and Jerry and not even notice that that doesn’t make sense any more. And it’s not like I don’t know why.

Like, you don’t go having weird curly weird hair that you always have to wear a hat over and zits and a weird chin and be super skinny and not notice that about yourself, especially if you semi-obsessively look in the mirror way too much but I can’t exactly stop, it’s like a traffic accident, you kind of have to look. I mean, I know, it’s not my fault, it’s genetics, it’s not like I can do anything about it, but I doubt, like I sincerely, sincerely doubt that there is one girl at that school -- no, okay, in the whole world -- who is like, oh that Tim, the way he has like no shoulders and weak arms and zits, that’s so sexy, I want to fuck him so much.

God, I’m so gross. Like lately all I think about is you-know-what, lately being like two years or something, and that’s such a cliche and I like know it’s a cliche but I mean, what am I supposed to do about it? Like literally if Andrea came over to my house and said, like, whatever, something that girls say that would be like, okay, she would be down, I would literally die. Like, okay, die. Like half from embarrassment, half from excitement, and half from shock.

But that’s not going to happen, so I’m still alive. I had this idea, though, and I’m trying to figure out if it’s a good idea. I was going to get Andrea like a pint of Ben and Jerry’s Peanut Buttah ice cream as a like, gift, but then I was like, what, put it in her locker, how’s that going to work, it’s going to totally melt, and anyway I was totally scared, I was heading to the skate park and my heart was like leaping out of my chest just imagining doing that and what she might say. Then I was like, well, that’s not gonna work, but I could do a Reese’s peanut butter cup, I could probably fit that somehow into her locker, maybe? But even if, then, like, what? Just write a note that says, “Hey, Andrea, I know you’re into peanut butter, thought you might enjoy this, Tim?” She’d be all: weirdo! And tell her friends and them all laugh at me and be like, “Ew, he’s so gross,” or “you just got a present from a human zit” or, more actually, “Who’s Tim?”

 

 

 

 

 

P.E.

 

Everybody knew ninth grade P.E. was a joke. Well, by all the girls Maya took seriously. Maya had played on soccer and volleyball teams in summers and school squads since fourth grade, and she actually enjoyed P.E. back in middle school, but at Kennedy it was quite clear that she could either take it not too seriously or risk people thinking she was weird. This was not a difficult choice. Play some softball and hang out and don’t try too hard.

The first and most complex problem in P.E. was the locker room. She had tried to get there early, because it became a mob scene, but Sabrina had pulled her aside.

Just outside the locker room, Sabrina said, “I’m not feeling that great.”

Rachel, who was right behind, said, “What’s wrong?” This was kind of annoying Maya, who was going to ask the same question, and get credit for being a thoughtful friend, not that Sabrina would say that she was, but Maya would know in her heart. Still, it was hard to be mad at Rachel for being nice. Being nice was what Rachel did, everyone knew that.

Sabrina was wondering if she should have said anything. She was still high from a blunt before school and feeling like she might need to either eat or puke, which was very confusing.

“I’m just really tired,” she said.

“Right?” Maya said. Everyone was always tired in high school. “I’m so tired” was like the easiest thing to say to anyone at any time in the school, because who says like, no you aren’t tired.

Sabrina said, “Let’s just go in.”

Rachel said, “Do you need to go to, like, the nurse’s office or something?”

Sabrina thought about that. For a moment she had this fantasy of just lying there in the nurse’s office, maybe a thermometer in her mouth or one of those blood-pressure things on her arm and just staring at the ceiling, not having to go to class or go home. She could imagine just staying there for the rest of the day, forever maybe.

She said, “No, I guess not.”

Naeli and Karen rushed past them, laughing about something private super loudly.

“Sometimes I kind of hate the way they laugh,” Maya whispered as she turned her face away from the pair.

“Right?” Sabrina said, but she wasn’t smiling.

Rachel said, “We’re gonna be late.”

They went into the locker room. Now it was in fact a mob scene, full of girls, mostly ninth, but some tenth, some standing still, some rushing, some arguing, voices too loud, and a few girls just looking lost and frozen, like Sabrina. Maya made a mental note to check on her during warm-ups, but for now she had to hustle to her locker. It wasn’t insanely crowded, but it felt stifling to Maya, like every girl had a five foot bubble around her and it was best not to invade anyone’s. She had to squeeze past girls shouting or hiding themselves, or standing there in their underwear and bras, and try not to look or compare bodies, and try not to judge when somebody sprayed some gross perfume on themselves way too much or brushed their hair so hard it looked like they were ripping it out of their scalp.

Maya quickly did the combo on the lock and popped it open. Her shorts and shirt were there, probably smelly if she thought about it, so she didn’t. She undid her jeans, trying not to look around if anyone was looking at her.

“Skinny bitch!” she heard in the babble, and her heart skipped a beat, then she realized that it wasn’t aimed at her. As far as she could tell. She had her uniform on now and got her sneakers tied quickly, then hauled ass out onto the field.

 

Tim was already out there, and getting impatient already. The guys’ locker room wasn’t anything at all like what they show you in the movies as far as Tim could tell. In the movies, guys are always either hardcore shoving someone into a trash can, which was a ridiculous thing that would never in his humble opinion in a million years happen. Or the opposite: joking and showering and playing pranks and high-fiving each other for winning.

But this was P.E., not team sports, and anyway Tim had a feeling that at Kennedy nobody did any of that team spirit stuff in the locker room even if they were champions of something. Which nobody at Kennedy ever was. It was kind of pathetic, how bad the Kennedy teams sucked.

P.E. was right after morning break for Tim. He usually got in, changed and got out to the field in less than two minutes. He was kind of proud that he always managed to get out there before anyone else, except maybe Mr. Kahn. Mr. K. was a pretty sick teacher who just wanted people to be healthy and have fun, and maybe the kids in his class could have like a little respect? It was kind of ridiculous that he had to beg people to change clothes, line up in straight lines and stretch, and then do some sports.

Especially the girls. Girls were always taking for fucking ever to get out there or to do actually play. There was nothing worse in Tim’s opinion than getting a girl on your team who just wouldn’t do anything, like anything at all, like they would just stand there and watch a volleyball go by. So many times he had gotten a couple of really good guys on his team like maybe Cole or Dylan and then some girl would get on it and they’d lose because the other team would serve it right at her. Which was what Tim did when there was a weak girl on the other team, but still.

In math and English there was a bunch of confusing information and you had to be a genius and do all the homework to get a good grade. But in P.E. all you had to do was put on a uniform and just try a little and you’d get a good grade from Mr. K.

“Like, how hard is that?” he said, but no one was listening. Mr. K. was at the other end of the asphalt rolling a cart full of equipment toward the near end, and Tim could see it was going to take him a minute or two.

New Mike who had just transferred and Jerry and Malik came out just after Tim, then Cole with a tennis ball from somewhere, and they started up a game of keepaway. This was fun enough, especially because Tim was probably the fastest and tallest, so he could stretch where the other guys couldn’t.

New Mike was It and Malik came around quietly directly behind him. Tim had the ball and he got a half grin because he could see the plan was for him to throw it right where New Mike would think he could get it, and then for Malik to grab it from above him.

Tim threw it, sideways, just above New Mike’s head. He turned to grab it, but Malik not only grabbed it, but threw it right back before New Mike could see what had actually happened.

“Nice!” Tim yelled.

“So slow,” Malik said to New Mike.

Cole said, “Over here,” but Tim wanted to try it again.

“Luck entirely and completely from start to finish,” New Mike said, his eyes locked on the ball as he said it.

“Pass it, ball hog,” Jerry said to Tim, but that wasn’t really the way Tim was, so he didn’t worry about it. He could see Malik now creeping up again behind New Mike. Tim faked a throw to Cole, who got the plan instantly and pretended to catch it, which got New Mike’s attention for an instant.

“Got it!” Cole yelled out.

“You ain’t got shit,” New Mike said, but now Malik was right behind him again. Tim knew New Mike would be ready for the same trick and Malik was a little too close, so Tim threw it harder than last time to sneak it by.

It was at this point that the girls came running up to line up before they were marked late and got another detention. Maya was fast and hyper aware of sports body language, so she slid past the boys safely to her spot in line-up, but Sabrina got a tennis ball hard right into the side of her head.

“Oh,” she said, not even sounding like she was really in pain, more like surprise, or realizing something, and then she collapsed to the ground, slowly sitting down.

Rachel, who was right behind her but had been missed by the ball by a few seconds, ran to check on her. Maya was already seated and starting to stretch when she looked back and now she was again seeming like the mean one and Rachel the nice one, so Maya got up to go check on Sabrina, too, even though she would have preferred to just keep stretching.

“What happened?” Lauren asked, but no one answered because Lauren had been hanging around with Zachary who was going out with Emily. Zachary wasn’t a player, everyone knew that, but he was just too nice to tell Lauren to go away, so now in P.E. the girls huddling around Sabrina chose to ignore Lauren out of solidarity with Emily, who couldn’t possibly have noticed because she was off in science class, but Maya was already planning that she would text her about it from the locker room later so that by lunch Emily would know, and would be grateful that Maya had been the first to tell her.

Sabrina hated all the attention. She wanted to just go walk over to her spot but she was still dizzy from the surprise of being hit, more than the pain of it, and she had probably smoked too much this morning, she was realizing, but couldn’t say that. Obviously.

Karen said, “Dude, go apologize,” to Tim, who was standing twenty feet away looking confused.

“What?” he said to Karen.

“Go apologize,” Naeli said, backing Karen up.

“He didn’t do it on purpose,” Cole said.

“Just messing,” Malik said.

New Mike wanted to say that that wasn’t the point, but he was still a new guy and didn’t know if he should get involved and be on the wrong side of some girl-boy social confusion thing. It was all really complicated at Kennedy. His last school had been just forty kids in the top two grades, a really small school out in East Washington. In his view, this place was such a large and confusing clusterfuck, on a daily basis.

He was also worried that if he said something nice for Sabrina he’d be siding with the victim. Because he had, if he was being honest, been losing at keepaway and getting sort of embarrassed, too. If he took her side too much he’d look like a pussy, which was the very last thing any guy would ever possibly want.

New Mike chose silence.

Mr. K. said, “People!” which meant line up in your warmup spots. He hadn’t noticed Sabrina and now she was slowly getting up with several girls helping her in a sort of exaggerated way and throwing evil looks to the boys, basically almost saying, “Look how bad she’s hurt and you’re doing nothing, this is just like you, insensitive boys! This is why we are always upset at you, in fact this just proves what we usually suspect, which is that you have no hearts. So you can be sure none of you are going to touch any of us, ever, pervs, unless you change your ways pretty damn quick, although this doesn’t necessarily apply to you, there, yeah, you, you’re sort of cute, although watch yourself, that opinion could change any second if you’re not cool about it.”

Jerry was much better at reading these kinds of signals than Tim and the other guys, except possibly Malik, who everyone knew was a had done stuff with tons of girls. Jerry came over to Sabrina and said, “Hey, you okay?”

“She’s fine,” Lauren said, and got glares from the other girls for this.

Now Sabrina had two major problems: getting all this attention off of her, and not letting a fight between Lauren and the other girls start because of her. Well, a third problem, she remembered as she shook off the arms supporting her: she felt weak and dizzy.

She resolved all her problems in one shot, taking a deep breath so as to not be nervous. She liked Mr. K. and everything, but adults just made her nervous. He was short, about her height, so she was forced to look him in the eye as she muttered, “I have to go deal with a girl problem.”

Mr. K. said quietly back, “Go ahead,” in a way that meant: I’m a guy teacher but I’m totally cool with periods and I’m not making a big deal about it.

As she walked past the lineups of stretching kids, Tim said to her, “Hey, sorry,” but she didn’t want to get into it and especially didn’t want to have anyone ask her what she said to Mr. K., so she ignored him, even though she was a little bit grateful that he had acknowledged that he had hurt her. No one ever did that in Sabrina’s life and it was a bit odd. Nice, but odd, so she kept moving.

Tim thought, “Shit, she hates me now.” This confirmed his suspicion that all girls thought he was gross and he didn’t even care in that moment that Sabrina was hot, it was just the way all girls thought he was gross.

“Basically,” he thought to himself, “Kennedy sucks ass.”

 

 

 

Challenges

 

Andrea said, “Look at this, this is so stupid, oh my God, we have to do this.”

She showed Maya and Rachel her phone as she unlocked the front door. Andrea hurled her backpack in the direction of the couch, and Maya tossed hers in the same direction as they came in. Rachel set hers down, not wanting to harm the textbooks inside, then felt like a loser for worrying about it and rushed over to look at Andrea’s phone as a way of preventing the others from noticing.

Online challenges were the thing now for their favorite YouTubers and also just cool people. Stuff like the condom challenge, the not my arms challenge, or the dumbass running man challenge.

Rachel and Maya had ended up at Andrea’s house after school in one of those talk-walk-bike fests that had led them from school to her house without a clear plan or even any discussion of any plan needing to be formulated.

Rachel was thinking about Physics B, which was next semester. She was ditching a pretest at the Academy right now, which was supposed to help her “be ready.” She had a feeling it probably wouldn’t, and a fear that it would. The worry about this led her to pick with her tongue at her braces in a way that made other people looking at her wonder if she was chewing gum.

Maya said, “If it’s stupid, why would I want to do it?”

Rachel agreed, but said, “I want to try it,” because she worried that she had a reputation for putting herself above others, thinking she was smarter, or better somehow, and this was an opportunity to show that she wasn’t above doing whatever the others did.

She filled the spoon with cinnamon.

“I’ll video you,” Andrea said, with growing enthusiasm. “Here, hold on.” She grabbed her phone to pull up the camera, but in the instant before she tapped the app, she noticed that she had a notification. It was from Malik. He had commented on her—

“Do I start?” Rachel said.

“Hold on,” Andrea said, thumbing over to her snapchat. “Maya, you have to hold it for her.”

“Why? Can’t she hold her own spoon?”

“No,” Andrea said. “It’s part of the thing. okay, go.”

Maya frowned briefly, then said, “Your funeral,” and set the spoonful of cinnamon in Rachel’s mouth. Rachel, not sure what was supposed to happen, started chewing, which even in the instant she was doing it made no sense to her.

She gagged briefly, then shot out an explosion of cinnamon into the air, gasping for breath, eyes tearing badly. Andrea tried to dodge, but some of the cinnamon landed on her and on Maya.

“Oh, my God!” Andrea shrieked. “You freak!”

Maya was laughing so hard she was bent at the waist, shaking. Rachel raced over to the sink and rinsed her mouth out, still gagging a bit, then raced back over to Andrea’s phone, saying “Show me!”

“Hold … on!” Maya said, still trying to stop laughing.

Andrea said, “You got cinnamon shit all over my Brandy shirt, bitch!”

“She was like …” Maya said, and did an impression of Rachel, bug-eyed, mouth puffed out.

“I didn’t do -- here, let’s see it!” Rachel said.

They huddled around as Andrea replayed it and this got them all laughing again, and then Andrea put the video in the slowed down filter which showed the exact moment when the geyser of cinnamon plumed out of Rachel’s mouth, her eyes wide with fear. All three girls were now laughing so hard that they could barely speak. Every few seconds they would almost recover, look back at the phone, and then lose it again.

After several minutes of this, Andrea finally gasped herself to a standing position, then ran off to change her cinnamon-dusted shirt. The other two followed into her room, talking, but Rachel got a bit quieter as Andrea pulled her T-shirt into place, because there was just no denying that Andrea had gigantic boobs and she, Rachel, would never have just torn off her shirt for others to see what wasn’t there.

Andrea put on some Drake, which Maya and Rachel pretended to enjoy as Andrea checked her phone.

Malik had said, “Fine,” about her post, and this could either mean that everything was fine, or that she was fine, and there was a great deal of difference between the two, and she was thinking about bringing this up and asking the two other girls their opinion and what she should do next when she realized that they might be either jealous or give bad advice, or, worst of all, accuse her of racism because it was true that lately she had been more into black guys and she didn’t know if this was starting to become a Thing, or if it was just that Malik was cute and so was Michael B. Jordan, the actor guy, which could be a coincidence.

But before she could bring the whole thing up, Maya pulled up some Rihanna and said, “I’m next,” as she filled a spoon with cinnamon.

 

 

 

 

Jerry

 

So you know that song Purple Haze by Jimi Hendrix? So if you listen to the lyrics it’s pretty obviously about acid, like LSD. I mean, he denied it when people interviewed him but it’s totally obvious when you listen to it, the music and the lyrics, and there’s no way he could have just said that it was back then, it was illegal and everything. But here’s the thing: my Grandpa Joel made that LSD. Way back in the day he was I guess an LSD scientist and he called some of it Purple Haze and stamped it on it and everything, and they were both living in Seattle at the time, so it’s kind of obvious that my grandpa made the same LSD that Jimi Hendrix made that song about. And I just think that’s so cool. I mean, I’m not at all saying I’m big into drugs or anything but I will definitely try LSD someday once, to see what it’s like. But the point is that my grandpa made his mark, sort of. Not to make too big a deal about it, but, like, whenever people listen to that song, which they will for like a million years I think, they’ll think of his LSD, and that’s just a trip to think about.

I would like to have that, like something that I do that stands out to people. Like my dad and me go race RC cars sometimes on weekends and it’s cool and everything, but it’s not like a lot of people know about RC cars, like I think to be totally honest with you most people at my school don’t even know that the RC stands for remote control, because a lot of people at my school are kind of not into anything that isn’t like music or girls or whatever shallow thing is on their Instagram.

Anyways it’s not like people will be thinking about me and my dad’s RC cars a million years from now, is my point. They probably won’t even have cars, there will be like flying cars and people will live on Mars and not have human faces or whatever. It sucks that people aren’t doing anything about global warming, because if they don’t then there won’t even be people a million years from now.

But anyways it’s actually more interesting than you think, racing RC cars. It depends what you have, obviously, but watching them race is pretty cool, a lot of guys come out, some kids but not that many, and guys drink beer and talk and whatever and race their cars. To be honest it’s sort of cool and sort of pathetic old guy mixed in. Mostly old guy, I guess, but I don’t know why, but I like it. Sometimes. My dad let me have a beer a couple of times. To be honest it tasted terrible and I had to pretend to like it and finish it and nothing, like, happened. Anyway I have an HPI E-Savage and my dad has this Kyosho Mini-Z Monster. Personally I think the E-Savage is sick, it looks way better than the Kyosho and it has way better balance and control. Like, his Mini-Z even when you’re not racing it looks like it could fall over at any minute. For real, people are always telling me that my E-Savage is sick. My dad has a bunch of cars of course but he’s mostly been racing the Mini-Z because it’s his fastest, but nobody ever says that it’s sick, at least not that I’ve heard. Anyway it’s chill, hanging out with the old guys, I mean I don’t love doing it all the time but I guess it’s not bad.

But not that I would tell anybody that. In high school, or at least at Kennedy in 9th and in my personal experience in every grade before that, if you stick out at all for anything that people think is weird, then they never stop talking about it or teasing you or whatever. I wouldn’t call it bullying but I definitely got called names. Like, a lot of names. When you have a kind of a weight problem or whatever starting in 2nd grade you get called all kinds of names and little kids can be totally cruel. Which is why Tim and me became friends, I think, because I don’t think he ever called me any of those names that I had before I lost my baby fat or whatever it’s called. I mean, I think people still call me stuff but I just try to ignore it. We used to play Pokemon and little kid shit, me and Tim, obviously we don’t do that anymore but back in the day that shit was dope, you know what I mean?

I mean, it’s like I guess I can tolerate if from guys, because if you’re a guy and other guys call you a retard that doesn’t mean that you’re retarded, it just means that you’re a retard, and I know it’s not cool to actual retarded people to say that, but guys just say that kind of stuff. Same with fatso or whatever, lardo or a million other names I could tell you, but like I think after a while it just kind of got to be a habit in them and I don’t take it personal or anything.

But if a girl called me that? That would kind of suck major. There’s all these girls that are in our group that I kind of don’t even know if they think I’m fat or not but they call me and Tim Ben and Jerry, so you do the math. And I don’t even eat ice cream! Is the weird part. But it’s hard to know sometimes what people think of you and you can’t just ask. I mean obviously I’m not as fat as I used to be, but I’m not like a male model or anything.

Like everyone thinks that Andrea is hot and she is, of course, like from a neutral point of view, but personally I think that Sabrina is hotter. So pretty. Also Naeli a little bit, I guess. But it’s not like I could go up to them and go, like, do you think I’m fat, or do you maybe think I’m cute or whatever? Whatever girls call it? I mean, sometimes it seems like we’re all friends and it’s chill, but sometimes it’s like they just either don’t remember who I am or maybe just treat me like the jolly old fat guy like Santa Claus or whoever, like hey, you can joke with him, but you wouldn’t want to, you know, do stuff with him. When we go to DQ I get a burger which I probably shouldn’t because you would be surprised that it’s a lot of calories, but I never get any fries or shake or anything like that. It would just be stupid, especially in front of all those girls, they’d be like, have another french fry, fat boy, and I don’t even…

I was just thinking that if I was my Dad, I would totally get the Traxxas T-Maxx nitro the 3.3., it’s 10-1 and it’s so sick, and the thing is? He has the money, it’s not like we’re that poor or anything but it’s just weird how when you’re an adult you can just go buy stuff. It’s much faster than his Mini-Z, I’ll guarantee you that.

I want to get a job soon. I’m fifteen and a half, and in Washington, maybe in all of America you can’t work most jobs until you’re sixteen. I want to be either a photographer or a chef or something like that, but people would maybe make fun of me if I was a chef, like, oh, have you been making the food or eating it, or whatever. But I haven’t really looked for jobs because like I said I’m not old enough. Anyway, my mom wants me to be an engineer so we’ll see about that I guess.

But honestly? If I could I might want to go out with Rachel. I mean, she’s not exactly my type, even though she’s sort of pretty and she has a cool voice but she has no tits. I’m not saying that to be mean, it’s just obvious. Also her butt is shaped kind of weird, kind of not exactly too skinny but bulgy in the wrong places, does that make any sense? Anyway, I really like Rachel, because she’s really cool to people. Like not just to me, to everybody. Like if she sees a dog on the street I’ll bet she stops to pet it. Honestly I would kind of like to just talk to her more and see what’s up. Because she’s totally not judgmental. She never would ever call a person fat, I can tell you that. She seems also totally like the kind of girl who if you told her you were into RC cars wouldn’t be all judgmental about it. Also she smells good, I know that for a fact because I sit right behind her in Accelerated English which I’m not even that accelerated but Rachel is ridiculously accelerated, but everyone knows that, she’s read like a million books, but she smells like I don’t know how to describe it. Now that I think about it maybe it’s like a perfume or something that girls put on themselves, maybe on her hair because that’s what I usually smell sitting behind her, but anyway to me she smells like those flowers, the little ones with white flowers on them, that smell so good. It totally is sexy so it kind of makes up for all the ways that she’s not really that hot. But like I said, super nice. She helps me sometimes on class work and shit and she’s totally helpful and she smells so good I want to, like, smell her shoulder up close or something. Not being weird, I wouldn’t do it! I’m just saying. Like, that smell makes me want to do something, like, physical with her, and everything like that.

I forgot to say that I’m only going to get a job like I said if being a skateboarder doesn’t work out, but I kind of think it will, straight up. Like I have honestly only been skating for serious for about six months or maybe maybe two more months than that, and already I’m pretty much the best skater at Kennedy. I’m not just saying that, Karen and Naeli said it too, like right to my face, and they posted me skating, which was cool. You can get sponsorships and everything which I am definitely going to do. RIght now my phone is messed up because I dropped it but once I get my dad to take it to Verizon I’m going to go around to skate shops for sure.

They kind of shouldn’t smoke so much, Karen and Naeli. Like, everybody smokes, but personally after a certain point I don’t even enjoy it anymore. I think there’s a difference between a person who smokes because it’s fun and a person who does it too much to cover up how bad they feel because their life sucks, and I think that’s what those girls are doing. It’s kind of problematical.

I think that Karen’s dad is mean to her or something? I’m not exactly sure, I kind of half overheard people talking about it, like Maya and Sabrina and them. I forgot to say that Maya is also pretty hot. It goes Andrea hottest, then Sabrina for most guys I would estimate, but for me reversed, and then Maya third. Like I don’t think her dad beats her or anything, nobody said that, but he’s basically extremely uncool. I don’t know exactly the details but I know that she gets pretty sad about it. I mean, I would. Not everyone has a cool dad and I’m not saying my dad’s all that cool but we can talk about stuff and he’ll help with homework if he knows what it’s about and since my mom -- anyway, we can hang out and race RC cars and all that stuff and I guess I wish Karen had that.

But it’s like, I just don’t get why everybody gets so worked up about everything. Like things will work out, is how I like to look at it. People get way too majorly upset about everything and I just think it makes them feel worse to focus on the negative. Seth didn’t get on varsity and it was like being around a suicidal depressed maniac for a week, he wouldn’t shut up about it, how stupid they were for not taking him and everything. Him and Bryan tried out and they wanted me to but I was like no thanks because A. I would like to keep my brain and not have concussions, and B. If you’re kind of sizable or however you want to say it then they put you on the offensive line and that’s boringer than anything. Also C. The games are on Friday nights which is when RC races are.

Half the guys in our grade would have tried out but their parents wouldn’t let them, is I think true. I personally think that it’s crazy that they let you play although to be fair it’s not like everyone gets a concussion but one thing that is true is that girls like guys who play football. Like if you don’t understand that or think it’s untrue then I just feel sorry for you because it’s so obvious. I think Eric C. got on JV and I was watching him and Sabrina hanging out and it made me ill, to be quite honest with you, like I was going to puke right there, but then I was like, don’t focus on the negative.

It’s just that -- I don’t know.

 

 

 

 

Andrea

 

Okay, what the fuck was even going on at the mall, don’t ask me. I mean, first of all Sabrina wore this like ridiculous, like, granny sweater that no one wears. It was 900 degrees out, I do not get it, but also booty shorts that left, like, nothing to the imagination, and I was trying to keep it mellow so I didn’t say anything but everyone was staring at her, these gross guys from the, like ID District where you’re not supposed to say all the poor Asian people live, but they do, sorry if that’s racist but I’m not the racist one who made them live there, and these guys were so gross, probably like 30 and living in their moms’ apartments and pretending to look for a job and like downloading porn all day. And meanwhile Rachel was all so into being all about her whatever it is, her Academy for Genius White Girls, that she dressed for the mall like it was a library, I’m not even kidding you, she had these, like, I don’t even know what to call them, slacks or something and this ridiculously boring blouse that made her look about fifty and her hair in this like, Bun to Wear If You’re a Thousand Years Old, I was obviously thinking: makeover! And it could have even been fun, but then, this was so -- Maya was there! She just showed up and I was all who invited you?, thinking it not saying it, obviously, I’m not a total idiot, and she is my best friend supposedly even though lately it’s been really kind of weird, it was like well, hi everybody, Maya’s here and I was all thinking: well, I guess we’re not smoking behind Macy’s.

I mean, I like Maya, don’t get me wrong. She can be totally chill and we used to hang, we still do, and she’s still my bestie 4eva and all that stuff like we wrote in eighth grade yearbook, but now I’m just kind of over it with her being all judgmental and everything like that. But she was all, “Hey, Andrea,” and I was like, “Hey, Maya,” and it was so fake, because she was obviously thinking that I shouldn’t be hanging around with Sabrina like she’s such a thug, but I was thinking, how even is that any of your business, you weren’t even invited. But then I was all, oh, shit, who did invite Maya? Because unless they found her in the parking lot or something which I most sincerely doubt, either Rachel or Sabrina must have brought her and Rachel never does stuff like that, she never invites anyone anywhere, she’s always busy with some Academy thing, she literally has no life whatsoever.

So I was all, “What’s up, Sabrina?” which of course she knew meant, if you wanted to invite someone to come along and judge me the whole time you could have told me and not snuck it up on me.

And she was all, “Hey, Andrea!” and gave me a hug and kind of an air kiss, so fake, and then we both pretended that she hadn’t just broken about every rule there is about how you don’t just bring someone that you didn’t ask everyone else who was going if they could come, but then suddenly Rachel grabbed us and said kind of breathlessly, “Oh, my Lord and Taylor,” which is like from that Project Runway show, and Rachel kind of pointed with her head and said, “Oh, Tim, I will definitely use the Lord and Taylor wall thoughtfully,” and all four of us looked, and you would not believe if I told you but Neil Emerson, Eli Malloy and Miles Turgeon were walking into the Lids and if you don’t know who Miles Turgeon is then I feel sorry for you, and Neil O’Shaughnessy is like definitely not bad, and I actually went out with Eli Malloy in like 6th for about ten minutes or something, it was just some stupid little kids thing, like nothing happened, we just went around school saying we were together and that was about it, but he’s in 10th and so are the other two and honestly they look they could be YouTubers, I’m not even joking. Like, not the kind of YouTubers who make videos of their, like, video games, and not like the celebrity followers who can be kind of funny but are usually gay, I’m not just saying that, they even admit it, I’m not like that about being gay at all, but the kind that are like, hey, what’s up chill people and just talk about their, like, life but it’s interesting? Does that make sense? I feel like that’s a thing, or maybe it’s just this one YouTuber that I used to watch but he stopped and took down his channel, I was like oh shit, why? because he was so fine, I watched his video about him sailing and just stupid shit like that about two million times, all the views were me probably; but anyway they looked, I mean Neil and Eli and of course Miles looked so hot, that even Rachel noticed, who’s like a nun or something, she never talks about boys, actually that’s not true, actually, she went out with Cesar Somebody last year, I totally forgot that, like it never happened, I don’t even remember why they ended it, probably he found the launch codes at the Academy and she had to kill him, who cares, he was so boring, like I’m not saying Rachel is boring but I’ll bet they went to, like, the roller rink for a good time and got hot chocolate and talked about books and solar panels and shit like that. God. Rachel seriously has potential but it’s like she always seems like she’s either too busy or too serious but then on a day like this she can be so fun , and everyone was cracking up at the whole Lord and Taylor thing -- but she was like, “I dare you to go in there and talk to them,” to me, to me, and I was like, “Excuse me?” because I was not about to get dared into talking to these guys by somebody who basically doesn’t even know what a boy is unless he’s Cesar the Science Fair Guy, or whatever he was about, and she was all, “Oh, I understand, Andrea, it’s okay to have fear. Fear is a natural experience, it protects a person” and for some reason SM Sabrina cracked up at this like it was the funniest thing that anyone ever said, which it wasn’t, it totally wasn’t, but meanwhile for some reason Maya didn’t say anything and all of a sudden I was like, oh, I get it, Maya is into Eli Malloy and she doesn’t want me to know because I used to go out with him. Like I care. Eli Malloy is nobody to me, I mean he’s cute, but he’s not my, like, property just because in 6th grade I let him put his hands in my back pockets which when I think back on it was kind of slutty for a 6th grader, but anyway I didn’t mind so I said, “My fear is too strong, Maya should do it,” and she turned so like, pale, like she practically disappeared.

But then, okay, I can’t even believe how this went down, but those guys came out of Lids which is anyway, what the fuck, a whole store for just baseball caps, why, and walked over to us, and I was about to kind of try to take the obvious tension out of the moment, we were all four of us just chilling sort of next to the Sunglasses Hut and trying on stupid glasses and I was sipping on this disgusting like orange drink that I got when we all went to the pizza place, I was like, I’m not eating one more slice of pizza this entire school year, I might as well staple it on my thighs they’re getting huge, like tree trunks basically, none of my old jeans fit, and so I was going to just say to Eli, hey what’s up, so that Maya would have some, like, cover. I mean I kind of had been wanting her to be all embarrassed and everything but not that much and I was feeling guilty about daring her, she is my best friend and all if you want to call it that, so I just decided to just say, hey Eli, what’s up, but before I could even like, lift up my sunglasses and stop sucking on my straw and say hey or anything, Miles goes, Miles, “Hey, Andrea.” Just to me! And the four of us are standing there, like literally four of us, but he’s all, he’s all, hey Andrea, but he was looking at Maya when he said it!?

But then Neil who was looking at his phone goes, “Shit, Geary is waiting, let’s bounce,” like this meant something to anyone, but the other two guys go, “Oh, shit, okay, let’s head” and said this, like, general goodbye to us four girls and our, like Sunglasses Hut lurker who had been staring to see if we were shoplifting but also obviously checking us out, so gross, like I’m going to go out with some twenty year old perv who works at a Sunglasses Hut, no thank you, and then the three guys from our school just basically took off. I mean, what the what?

And then we were all standing there and it was super weird and awkward and nobody knew what to say but Rachel goes, hey, let’s go by the fountain, so we put all the stupid sunglasses away because basically no one knew what to say and I was either pissed off at Maya or she was pissed off at me and I didn’t even know which way it was, it was so confusing.

But we went to the fountain where when I was a stupid little kid I used to walk around the outside of it and if you sit on it you almost get wet but not, and me and Maya and Sabrina sat down, but Rachel stayed standing like she was our teacher or something, and goes, “Okay, I know that seemed weird to me, did that seem weird to you, Maya and Andrea?”

Maya said, “Yeah, it did,” and I was like, “Same,” but I wasn’t sure if it was same because it might have been weird for different reasons, like he said my name but he was looking at her , so we had the opposite -- anyway, I just said same, and then Sabrina, who nobody even asked, said, “I thought it was weird, too.”

But Rachel just kind of ignored her and said, “Okay, well, do you guys want to talk about it? Because I think it might be awkward to talk about it, but it would probably be more awkward not to talk about it, and then people will get all resentful and stuff.”

I just shrugged. Obviously I wasn’t going to go first. Like, if Maya wanted to say something or admit something or apologize then fine, but I hadn’t done anything wrong so I definitely wasn’t apologizing.

But then Maya didn’t say anything, she just looked off in the distance to the right or whatever, away from us, and then I was like, “Oh, shit, are you crying?” and she was, I totally called it, but I felt terrible for her and she like got up and ran off and we basically like followed her going, what’s wrong, what’s wrong, and she kind of ran out of energy near the bathrooms in the food court or whatever, and we all surrounded her and were like, are you okay?

And Sabrina was like, “What’s wrong, Maya?” in this voice that was like all I’m here for you voice like she’s her therapist or something which was so, like, I don’t know, selfish, because me and Rachel were standing right there, like literally right there next to them, but whatever.

And Maya eventually like wiped her nose and everything and cleaned up her mascara, she looked like Halloween fright night and we had to kind of help her and she kind of got her shit together and then Rachel said, “You got upset,” which was obvious, but the way she said it was cool, like not that sympathetic and weepy, just keeping it 100.

And Maya said, “I don’t want anyone to feel bad, but I feel like it’s my fault.”

And I was all, “What’s your fault?”

And she was all, “Miles, obviously,” in a sort of rude way, and of course I had to forgive her, like, tone, because she was the one who had been crying although I was upset, too, but nobody was cleaning my mascara, basically only because I was the one who was managing to keep my shit together, sorry if that hurts your feelings, Maya, but you know it’s true, anyways it’s not that important. But I did keep my shit together.

And I was like, “What about Miles?”

And she was like, “You know.”

And I was like, “Not really. I mean, he obviously likes you, but that’s not my problem. I’m not even into him.” Which was obviously not true but you have to say it if you want to not be a bitch about it and give her a chance because obviously if he’s into her then I’m not going to be all upset about it, I don’t even care to tell you the truth, Miles Turgeon can go die for all I care. Honestly, he thinks he’s so hot but he’s not that hot. Like I know some seniors that are way hotter than him but I couldn’t even think about it because my mom would basically kill me.

But Maya was all, “What, no! He likes you!”

And I was all, “Shut up, he does not, what even are you talking about, he was staring all over you,” but thinking, wait, does he, God I hope so, does he really?

And Maya was all, “He said your name, Andrea.”

“But he was looking at you,” I said, getting more hopeful now the more I thought about it.

But Maya said, “But yesterday, no, like two days ago? Wednesday?” She dabbed at her eyes because mascara was kind of in them and she’d been rubbing them constantly and I was like, what, Wednesday what, girl, thinking it but not saying it obviously.

And Sabrina was like, “Wednesday what?” and I was like, who even asked you, nobody said your name or looked at you, how even are you part of this?

But Maya goes, “He, Miles, he on Wednesday we were in class after class together, I mean not together obviously but after class? Ms. Knowles?” and I was like, what already, God, get to the point!

Finally Maya said, “I was like trying to say hello to him, but he looked at me and said, ‘Hey, Andrea.’”

There was a quiet second while we all try to figure that out.

Rachel said, “So, he thinks that your name is Andrea?”

“I don’t know!” Maya practically screamed.

And I was like, “Well, that’s just a mistake, he’s obviously into you, you all saw the way he walked over and everything, he just doesn’t know your name.”

“No, it’s not just that,” Maya said, “Because he said your name both times and -- oh my God,” and then she cried for a while more and we had to help and everything and this mom with a stroller was staring at us and I was like, what, bitch, go make some more babies, but then Maya finally was ready again.

And she goes, “I heard him after class telling Troy V. that ‘that Andrea chick is kind of hot.’”

And I thought for a sec but then I was all, “Well, obviously that means you.”

“No, obviously it means you!” Maya said. “Because he isn’t into me, you can tell, he never looks at me and he was just confused about names but obviously he’s into you, all the guys are into you, they always have been, and it’s not my fault I have like, pimples and man shoulders, and, look, it doesn’t even matter —”
And she started that crying again and was going to run off again, too, but we just grabbed her and everything and I was like, oh my God, what even do I say?

But then Sabrina said, so irrelevant, “What about Natalie Storchman? Aren’t they going out?”

And even Rachel was like, “They broke up, like weeks ago. Right?”

She asked me, and I was all, “I don’t know,” although I did, everybody knows that.

But then Maya was all, “Don’t say it like that, Andrea, you don’t have to do me any little favors like that, I mean I appreciate it, but you know he’s maybe available and if you like him and he likes you, that’s not -- you shouldn’t feel bad about it.”

I started to say, “I don’t --” but it wasn’t really worth it because these girls are when you get down to it my homies and they know me and all and I like to keep it 100 so I was all, “I mean, I could see it? But it’s not like anything has ever happened.”

“I know,” Maya said. “It’s just that it could.”

 

 

 

 

Maya

 

I hated more than anything on Earth crying in front of the girls and the whole rest of the world, but in a way I didn’t because what is so bad about crying, like why are we always so ashamed of it? It’s a human thing, and if Andrea doesn’t have the patience for it, I don’t think that’s my problem.

I was completely over the whole Miles thing anyway and we were just looking for leggings for Rachel because she apparently has only one pair, and it’s not even black which is like, necessary. Which is a bit sad, maybe a lot sad because she’s so all about being smart that she doesn’t know how to be normal.

The whole Miles thing was too much noise about one dumb boy anyway, but what really bothered me was that Andrea was being so inconsiderate. Like, from the beginning of the whole shopping extravaganza she was kind of giving me creepy looks and I didn’t like it. But it is a complete fact that she is the most conventionally attractive of all of us except possibly Sabrina, certain guys probably go for her look, but everyone goes for Andrea’s look and she knows it. What kind of pisses me off is that she knows that, but she acts like it’s not true. Like, own it. Whatever, I’m not saying I’ll be single for eternity. You just don’t have to hog all of the attention all of the time. Whatever. I’m over it.

And finally we were off the subject of Certain Boys and then Andrea said, “My thighs are so fat” while she was looking in the mirror and first of all I don’t even know why she was trying on leggings, we were supposed to be helping Rachel. But anyway she just had to say something bad about herself so we would rush to her defense and I just kind of wanted nobody to say anything so she wouldn’t get what she wanted. But then Sabrina is such a kiss-ass even though she can actually be nice, but she said “Oh my God like shut up Andrea, I would literally kill someone to have your body.” Which when you think about it is kind of a weird thing to say to somebody, but I guess it’s pretty normal for us.

But then I had one of those moments where your vision gets kind of shaky and red because I said, “I think those are probably not your size, just saying.” I mean I said it kind of not that big a deal, but my heart started beating really fast for some reason. I was anyway not even really looking, I was checking out this white denim jacket that would get so dirty you couldn’t wear it after two days and I’m not even sure why it was in an exercisey store, but I could feel the side of my face kind of burning where Andrea was staring me down.

Andrea said, “Whatever, Maya, I’m not really sure why you’re here anyway.”

And it was like I couldn’t breathe for a second because we used to be best friends and now it’s like she doesn’t even want to hang out with me anymore. Also I was invited, so that’s as fair as anyone else being here, like I happen to know that Sabrina only invited her because she wants to tag Andrea in a picture so people know they were hanging out together. Which I could have easily said, but I didn’t, is my point.

Rachel said, “Hold on,” but I was pissed, and I said, “You know what, Andrea? I’m really sorry if I’m ruining your good time by existing.” And then Sabrina was like, “okay, come on, you guys,” but I said, “You know what? If Andrea doesn’t want me in the same mall as her, I don’t have to be here.”

But then Andrea kind of sneakily said, “What? What is the big deal? I was just saying that I didn’t know, like why you were here, like if you were shopping for something specific or what?”

And so then I was super pissed, but I just said, “I’m sorry everyone for crying. Sucks that I have actual human feelings. Not that everyone here would understand that.”

And I saw Sabrina out of the corner of my eye smiling but it was okay because it was like a this is awkward smile not a Maya is so stupid I’m laughing at her smile and Sabrina’s not so bad, only judgy people like Andrea hate her but she does smoke too much, but I’m trying to get over it.

Andrea said, “Okay you know what, Maya, I was actually being nice and I don’t know why you’re trying to attack me about it..”

But instead of saying something like I should have, I just felt like anything I said would just make the everyone think I was being an attacker so I just didn’t know what to say, so I didn’t say anything, I kind of just went off a little bit on my own to look at shorts. There was nothing even remotely cute cause it was all running shorts, but I kept looking through them for some magical pair that would be cute and look good on me and even though I didn’t want to I kept kind of glancing over to see if the other three were going to come over at all to see if I was alright. I mean, I was alright, but it would have been nice not to be abandoned. Although, to be fair they had all been taking care of me before and I felt like okay maybe I should just take care of myself. So I decided to just get these normal exercise shorts that I could actually wear to school, 25% off, and I didn’t even have the energy to try them on and have everyone look at me and have Andrea laugh at my skinny legs. These were real fears, I think. It would have happened, I’m not just being paranoid. So I was at the checkout and the girl was chewing gum in the most annoying way possible but I didn’t say anything, and then out of absolutely nowhere Andrea came over and said, “You’re buying that?”

And I said, “Yeah, they’re sort of cute. Why?”

And Andrea gave a little kind of half laugh and I didn’t really know what that meant but I didn’t like it and we were then all four of us walking out and she said, “Look, I feel like friends tell friends, you know? And I don’t think you’re doing yourself any favors with those shorts. Is that okay to say?”

And I just kind of stood there, holding my stupid bag with the stupid shorts and I was going to ask why, but then Sabrina out of nowhere said, “It does seem like kind of maybe you’re trying too hard?”

And after that things didn’t get any better.

 

 

Halloween

 

Rachel’s dad was saying, “… when the U.S. ranks, what is it—-?”

And her mom said, “37th?”
“That’s by the World Health Organization,” her dad pointed out.

“Okay, fair enough,” her uncle Louis said, “But that does not mean that an individual mandate which tromps on the individual rights --”

“Oh, come on now!” Rachel’s dad nearly shouted, although he also shook his head with a half smile, half smirk. He slammed his fork down on the tablecloth and reaching for his red wine. Bits of lasagne that her mom had made carefully with kale because it was healthy and with extra ricotta, because her dad loved it, went flying in a little splatter pattern from the fork, which Rachel had to look away from to ignore.

Rachel was thinking one very specific thing in particular as her parents and her uncle fought about health care in the United States: I gotta get the fuck out of here.

Uncle Louis was okay, in fact she had really liked him when she had been little, but as she had gotten older she had gotten kind of sick of the fights between him and her dad, always intellectual, no heavy emotions allowed in the Cohn household. The fork slammed on the table was about as street as things got. More than that, it was -- well, it wasn’t exactly one specific thing that drove her crazy, it was just … them. Them being them. It was not possible for her to stand it one more night, but here she was.

The thing was, you had to stick around for about ten to twelve minutes at dinner or you’d get questions and nagging. More than that wasn’t necessary, but less would be noticed. If she just tried to skip it or said she wasn’t hungry, that would lead to a half hour discussion with her mom about why not, and Rachel did not need that. She went with her past research, which had taught her that sitting through dinner took way less effort than trying to avoid it.

Dinner started at 6:00 and it had for as long as Rachel could remember, with the occasional exception when somebody worked late. Those nights were usually a lot easier for Rachel, nights when she and dad or she and mom would just microwave something and Rachel would do some homework or if she didn’t have any, which was pretty rare, maybe they’d watch something or play a board game.

But she was desperately trying to avoid a family night tonight. They’d tried to hint at it, suggesting that she’d like to give out candy or “go trick-or-treating with a friend.”

Even the idea of this nearly made Rachel a) gag physically and b) apologize to whichever friend they had in mind. But they didn’t actually mean a friend, they meant Holly. Rachel was fifteen years old, and she damn well wasn’t about to go door to door in a princess dress with Holly from the temple.

Not gonna happen, she thought.

“You not hungry, Rach?” her mother asked.

Shit, she’d forgotten to push stuff around on the plate.

“It’s delicious,” she said, which wasn’t an answer technically but was the right answer actually. She had gotten a burrito and a slushie from the 7-11 after Academy, but it was wiser not to mention this.

Uncle Louis said, “I mean, you’re on my side, right, Rach?”

Rachel glanced at the phone in her lap and without looking texted maybe not to Sarah, who had just sent her a shot of herself in a Halloween costume she was calling a “business bitch,” which seemed to just mean cleavage and booty shorts and a man’s jacket over it. Rachel couldn’t see the shoes, probably high heels. The makeup was red lipstick and pink-looking smoked eyeliner. It was gross. Sarah was okay and kind of worshipped Rachel for some reason but had zero taste. Not the brightest bulb in the package, but Rachel felt like Sarah was nice, and that counted for a lot for Rachel. There was a no-phones-at-the-table rule but Rachel was pretty good at hiding a phone under a tablecloth, in her own humble opinion, texting Sarah but u do u while saying to her parents, “Personal responsibility is an important value, I guess.”

“See, exactly!” Uncle Louis said, clapping once, but too loudly.

Her dad leaned in toward her uncle to demand, “Since when is an intellectual position validated just because you have agreement from a 15-year-old kid?”

“A very smart 15-year-old kid,” her mother corrected with a smile.

“A very smart 15-year-old kid,” her dad conceded with a smile.

Even Uncle Louis smiled at Rachel and said, “That she is.”

Sometimes, Rachel thought, smiling back at her family, I wish they’d all crawl in a hole and die.

 

After dinner she went to her room, followed pretty quickly by her mom, who said, “I’ve got Warren’s stuff right here.”

“Thanks,” Rachel said, not sure how she felt about this whole decision. She took the old duffel bag of Warren’s football gear. Warren was just starting med school and probably wouldn’t be needing any of his old football stuff any time soon. Her mom left and Rachel sat down at her vanity, feeling herself moving in slow motion, but not very worried, since no one was going to give her a ride for half an hour at the earliest. She tried to decide if she should put on the black stuff that football players put high on the cheekbones, what kind of makeup she would use if she did do that, and what the point of that ridiculous look was, anyway.

She had no answers. The only definitive decision she could make in that moment was to use a cleansing pad on her cheeks.

Halloween was always such a minefield, trying to figure out what to wear that would look at least a little original or creative but not too crazy, and look like you were having fun but not trying too hard, plus the difficulty of trying to figure out what to do when you were too old to trick or treat and too young to go to clubs and places like that, and worst of all, the question who to go with. For years she and Holly Sanderson had been pretty much forced to trick or treat together because Holly’s parents and Rachel’s parents were temple friends and they lived nearby, but neither of the girls actually liked each other.

Last year Rachel, who obviously, obviously, -- why could her mom not figure this out? -- just wanted to hang out with Maya and Andrea and Sabrina and all of those guys, not with Holly, had gotten stuck with her anyway, because her mom had made a huge deal about it. So Rachel had had her mom drop her and Holly off at Andrea’s, but that was even worse, because her friends walked with each other in a tight, hilarious group. They so obviously ignored Holly and put Rachel in such a terribly awkward in-between position, that Rachel was moved to grimace with horror at the memory at her own reflection in the vanity mirror at that moment. For weeks after that she had been pissed at her mom and finally they had had it out and apparently, as Rachel now thought about it, she was going to be able to live her own damn life.

There was a text from Philip. He had started up an Academy precalc group text that Rachel was in, and now he said to it, “There has to be a limit to the number of primes if n is less than infinity.”

She pulled open her precalc spiral to the spot where she’d glued in the problem sheet and, as she’d thought, there was nothing specifically saying that n was or wasn’t infinite. She thought for a moment about texting “n is undefined, just nonzero” then looked unhappily at herself in the mirror and instead started texting, “It’s Halloween, people, get a life,” then deleted that and put the phone down.

She sighed. This was the price of being her.

 

Tim said, “I’m not going as a pig.”

Jerry said, “Well, you have to go as something.”

“Just because you have a pig nose doesn’t mean I’m going as a pig. Halloween is fucked up.”

Jerry killed two zombies but Tim was caught outside the diner by a whole onslaught of them. His fingers on the controller were pounding away but they kept coming.

“Help a brother out,” he said calmly.

“Trying,” Jerry said.

“Fuck,” Tim said.

“Use your --” Jerry started to say, but then they both cursed and relaxed their grips for a moment.

“What else do you have?” Tim asked.

“I don’t know, look in there,” Jerry said, gesturing to a pile of clothing he had turned onto his bed, next to a large cardboard box that said “Halloween Stuff.”

“What’s Cole and those guys doing?” Tim asked, walking over to pile. He picked at it, throwing aside a fireman’s hat, a Superman cape, and some vampire teeth, rejecting them all as little kid stuff. He found a black cape and put it around his shoulders.

“This I could do, I guess.”

“What are you?”

Tim paused, “Black cape man?”

“You mean, like, Dracula?”

“No, just, Black Cape Man.”

“That’s not a thing.”

“I know, but I’m not wearing those cheap-ass plastic teeth.”

“You have no Halloween spirit.”

“Fuckin’ A,” Tim said. Jerry couldn’t tell if this was agreement or disagreement. Jerry’s dad was a lab technician and had donated one of his old white lab coats a few years back to the collection. Jerry put it on now and added a rainbow afro wig.

“Mad scientist,” he said, studying his reflection in the closet mirror.

“It’s cool,” Tim said, secretly thinking that there was no way on Earth you could get him to wear something so dorky as a rainbow wig. But he was also envious, because there was something about Jerry, a kind of who-cares attitude, that let him do stuff like that and get away with it.

“Dementor,” Tim decided, pulling the robe a bit tighter around himself. “From Harry Potter, you feel?”

“Sick!” Jerry said. “Do it. You don’t even need a mask --”

“With this face,” Tim finished for him. “Yeah, yeah, saw it coming.”

Jerry picked up his phone and grimaced. “Vinh is coming too, I guess.”

“Oh, shit,” Tim said.

“Not my idea,” Jerry said. “Him and Cole and that Mike guy.”

“Fucking Vinh,” Tim said.

“Well, yeah, but It’s Halloween,” Jerry said. “Let’s have a little fun. Smash a few pumpkins?”

“No, for sure,” Tim said, “It’s just that Vinh guy. A few pumpkins, whatever, but that guy…”

“I know, right?” Jerry said, growing a bit worried. “He’s coming over here with Cole.”

“Let’s meet somewhere else,” Tim said, trying to take care of Jerry.

Jerry nodded. “Yeah, good idea.”

“If he tries to, I don’t know --”

“Yeah, then we’re out,” Jerry said.

“That guy’s bad news,” Tim said, sounding gloomier to himself than he usually did.

 

Rachel was still studying her reflection and grading the results poorly, ignoring the Academy precalc texts, and trying to figure out when everything had all gotten so complicated.

Memories came, unbidden.

Until second grade she had just been a kid, as far as she had known. Then one day she had been pulled away unexpectedly from Rachel’s Rug. Rachel’s Rug was had a barnyard print and a bean bag chair next to a bookshelf in the corner of Room 8, Mrs. Dahlgen’s room. This was where Rachel was usually to be found after having finished her classwork early. In theory every kid was allowed to use Rachel’s Rug, but almost inevitably Rachel would finish her assignments both completely and correctly well before the other kids did, and would plop down on the blue bean bag to reread one of the four last and thickest Harry Potter books.

It was only years later that she realized that this behavior had no doubt made her insufferable in the eyes of the other students in Room 8.

Awareness of such resentments filtered in gradually. One day in third grade a girl on the playground called Rachel a “brainiac.” Rachel had not previously thought of having brains as a bad thing, but the tone of insult is far more damaging than the content. For a while she was upset that she was apparently too smart, but soon came to realize that being smart wasn’t really the hazard, it was being different that really hurt.

This despite, or perhaps especially since her mother and father made a habit of telling her that she was special, clearly implying that this was a good thing. Rachel had a strong feeling some days that her mom and dad were created in a laboratory, maybe the same place where greeting cards are made; and a certainty that they had never attended anything like Mason Middle School or Kennedy High, because being different sucked ass, in Rachel’s humble opinion.

But that day in second grade she’d been more innocent, unaware of the social guillotine about to drop.

A woman calling herself Tina had taken her to a room she hadn’t known existed at the school, and asked a number of questions. Rachel knew it was a test, but didn’t know what it was for. In her limited second grade understanding of the world, adults were beings who took a person places and asked questions and used up their time as they choose, and kids didn’t protest or ask questions of your own. If somebody tried that now, at Kennedy, she realized, they’d get so much attitude that -- well, they’d get a lot of attitude.

“The fck r u?” Maya texted.

“Omw,” Rachel texted back, which wasn’t technically true, but she wasn’t ready to nag her mother for that ride yet. Her mom needed the dishes at least soaking before heading out or Armageddon would strike. Rachel thought for a moment that she could help her mom clean up and this would make things move quicker, but the thought died away quickly. She was far more interested in feeling bad about memories of being an outcast.

She remembered that Tina had tested her in an unknown room at the school. There had been a poster on the wall of a cat clawing at a wall tapestry with big splashy words advising “Hang in There!” in yellow. It was only in fifth grade that she learned that this was the staff room. There had been a microwave and couches. Teachers living it up in style.

“Fine,” Tina said when she had quickly graded Rachel’s first efforts. Second grade Rachel was a bit excited that an adult was permitting Rachel to address her by first name. Tina was glamorous to Rachel, a dark brunette with a chignon and a prim little outfit featuring a little black dress and tights. This last was a major draw, as seven-year-old Rachel adored tights. Tina also wore a white cardigan with white pearls close to her neck. Rachel instantly had a little girl crush on her, the kind that has nothing to do with sexuality nor romance and everything to do with envy.

Rachel remembered that her mother had told her that one can distinguish real pearls from fake by rubbing them against one’s teeth to assess for grit, and imagining this sensation greatly distracted her in her doings with Tina.

“Do you see this piece of paper?” Tina asked. Even at seven years old Rachel knew a rhetorical question when she heard one, and stayed quiet. Tina nodded and continued, “If I fold it like this,” performing what is called in schools the “hamburger fold”, lengthwise down an 8.5 × 11 sheet, “there will be two sections, right?” She showed Rachel the two sections. Rachel blinked, waiting for her point. She was something of a blinker, she now remembered with great embarrassment. She realized now that before she had gotten contact lenses, all that blinking must have had a rather grotesquely magnified effect in tortoiseshell glasses, with glass as thick as Coke bottles, and now she worried that she had possibly alarmed Tina, but she somehow maintained calm. Rachel considered that this all had probably occurred before the Keep Calm meme, and decided that Tina was way ahead of her time.

Rachel remembered Tina nodding again in her Glamorous Tina way and folding the paper again. “How many sections are there now?” she asked, without unfolding the paper.

This seemed so elementary that Rachel waited for some trick. When none was forthcoming she asked, “Four?” and Tina nodded. She folded the entirety again and, eager to please her, Rachel said that there were eight sections, and then they moved on to sixteen.

Then Tina said, “Well, I can’t seem to quite fold it again, but if I could, how many would there be?”

This fascinated Rachel, not the math, but the idea that there was something -- a rather simple something -- that Glamorous Tina couldn’t do. She now thought: it’s called folding paper. Not that hard, Tina.

Second-grade Rachel was much more eager to please. She said then what she now remembered with embarrassment as something like, “Well, the pattern is powers of two. We started with two to the zero, which is one section, one piece of paper. Then you folded it and we had two to the first power, which is two. Then to the second, third, fourth, which was sixteen. You’re just asking me what two to the fifth is, which is 32, and since I think it’s only going to get harder to fold, the rest of the pattern that I remember is 64, 128, 256, 512, and, let me see, 1024?”

“Get yr skinny ass ovr here,” Maya texted.

 

“I’m not taking a bag,” Tim said.

“Come on, man, you want candy or what?” Jerry asked.

“Take a bag, dude,” Cole said. Cole was some kind of accident victim or some gory thing, fake blood all over his face and his clothing, although he didn’t have any other costume so it was kind of weak. Mostly he looked like what he was, which was a guy who liked fake blood. After threatening to bring Vinh he had showed up without him, and without New Mike, who wasn’t answering texts, and neither Tim nor Jerry had said anything about it.

But he was out there, Vinh, Tim could feel it. It was like swimming in clear blue water in one of the Sharknado movies. Any second now -- bam!

“I’m not fucking trick or treating,” Tim said. “How old are you?”

“There’s this one block,” Jerry said. “We hit that, it’s fucking sick, and then we see what’s up. Need me some Reese’s.”

“Fuck Reese’s,” Cole said. “Kit Kat, Hershey, Twix, in that order.”

“Dafuck?” Tim said. “Milky Way, Starbust, Tootsie Rolls. Then Reese’s.”

“What?!” Jerry demanded. “Did you just -- you did not just put Starburst on the same list as fucking Reese’s!”

“Starburst are --”

“You’re sick,” Cole jumped in. “There’s something seriously wrong with this guy, Jerry. You need fucking mental help, Tim. How the fuck are you putting a Tootsie pop in with a fucking Hershey bar? This is like some twisted fucking joke.”

“Fuck you,” Tim said, aware it wasn’t the cleverest thing he had ever said, but also aware he was losing this fight. Then again, he felt indignation hitting him hard now. “I said Tootsie Rolls, not Tootsie Pops, dumbshit.”

“You said—”

But Tim was on a roll. “And fucking Starburst is sick candy, motherfuckers. Starburst you get a million different flavors. Hershey you’re just sitting there chewing on chocolate --”
“This is unbelievable,” Jerry said. “You’re fucking with us, right?”

“I’ll trade you,” Tim said. “You’ll see, after, I’ll trade every --‘’
Cole suddenly said, “Wait, look at this,” and showed them a picture of Sarah. They crowded around his phone and started at it for a long moment. The candy conversation was officially dead.

“Damn,” Cole said appreciatively. “What the hell is a ‘business bitch?’”

“I don’t know, but it’s kind of hot, I guess?” Jerry said.

“I guess,” Tim said, to deflect attention away from the fact that his body was overreacting again. It was good to have a cape, sometimes.

Unable to think of anything else to do this early, they headed out into the night. The strategy was, follow little kids. The three guys found a group of about six little kids who were knocking on every door and calling out Trick or Treat and handling all the stupid questions about “what are you supposed to be?” and then, right at the end when the little kids were done, the three teenagers would show up and grab as much as they could from parents who were just about to head back inside and didn’t feel like starting over with all the questions. It was, as the three of them kept telling each other, a sick strat.

They each had a massive bag going when Vinh, Carlos and McMillan dropped out of a tree right in front of them, scaring the shit out of them.

Vinh immediately cracked up, pointing with the side of his hand, something like a karate chop, aimed at Tim and saying, “You cried out like a little bitch,” and Tim could feel it: something shady was going to go down tonight.

“You little pussies trick-or-treating?” Carlos asked, although that was completely obvious. He and Vinh and McMillan a bra on over their shirts, and Carlos had a wig, which apparently meant that they were going as girls, but other than that they weren’t making much of an effort, just wearing pants and T-shirts and jackets and looking to Tim like pretty much just guys with bras.

McMillan, who never went by his first name, said, “Got any Milky Way?” and this set off a debate about the best kind of candy, and the six of them walked for a while arguing the point while Tim kept looking at Jerry, who was also trying to figure out how to ditch these guys without looking like a pussy.

Vinh ran onto the steps of a house with all its lights on, grabbed two pumpkins, and tossed one after the other them toward traffic, in high, arcing throws that missed the cars but made one of them honk and then suddenly stop. That sent the guys running. Vinh and Carlos were laughing like crazy, but Cole and Tim and Jerry were just running, capes flying, wigs falling off, candy bouncing out of bags.

When they finally turned onto a quiet corner and caught up with each other, Cole said an obligatory “That was sick,” to Vinh, but Tim a little bit hated him for being a suck-up. That didn’t last, though, because McMillan said, “Let’s go find some girls,” and the conversation pivoted very quickly in that direction.

 

Rachel put the weird football shoulder pads on over her tank. This reminded her of her brother, Warren, who was always the jock, Rachel the brain. Throughout elementary school she had been on a faster track in some way or another, in after-school classes or the undefined “gifted,” program, while Warren was busy setting some school record in hurdles or something else she didn’t care about.

She wasn’t profoundly resentful of having learned some things she might not have otherwise, and she had met some kids she thought of as tolerable geeks, but living in two worlds was unsettling. Now in ninth she attended the specialized Academy three days a week after the start of lunch, eating on the bus, and lived in the world of so-called normal kids the rest of the time, mornings and evenings.

“What a time,” she said to her mirror, “to be alive.”

She added the football shirt over the pads. More than that she wasn’t sure she could stand to do. No helmet, that was for sure, and not the stupid football stretch pants, either, she was just going to wear jeans. What to do with her hair was a matter of great internal debate.

“Knock knock,” her mother said, not knocking.

“Mom,” Rachel said, but decided not to push this old fight again, since she needed a ride and she was about to deceive her mother, so this was probably not a good time to go on the offensive.

“Sorry,” her mother said, not sounding sorry, and stood behind her. She gathered up Rachel’s hair as if to put it in a ponytail, but just kept playing with it. Rachel’s skin was crawling just a bit.

“It looks great. You look so lovely,” her mother said, which didn’t really make sense for a girl in a football uniform, Rachel thought. Then, trying to sound as though she had just thought of it, her mom added, “Hey, you know, Natasha says they’re still available.”

“Mom,” Rachel said with sudden wild irritation. Natasha was Holly’s mother.

“I know, I know,” her mother said. “It’s just --”

“You want me to speak up for myself, and then when I --”

“No, of course, no, this is your decision!” her mom said.

“Okay, then,” Rachel said.

“Fine,” her mom said.

Rachel tried not to glare, and for the sake of the ride and easing of possible later repercussions, asked, “What do you think I should do with my hair?”

 

She asked the exact same question fifteen minutes later, this time in front of the mirror in Maya’s room. Karen and Naeli were already there, laughing too much. Rachel was pretty sure they were high, mostly because they always were, but that would be a little bit weird, because they were in a group costume with Maya, which was weird itself, because Rachel hadn’t realized that Maya, who hated drugs, was so down with Karen and Naeli, who, to put it mildly, didn’t hate drugs. Rachel was horrified to learn so late that she had missed the earlier part, probably days or weeks ago, when the three of them had agreed to go together as the girls from Clueless. She felt a nearly all-consuming envy of them, because they completely had it down, and got to wear cute tartan skirts that in Rachel’s opinion were a little too high, but not that bad, and they just looked awesome together, which she said to them in a voice that was possibly too enthusiastic.

She’d missed out, again. This was one of those things that had probably happened in school when Rachel was at Academy. Of course she couldn’t criticize Karen and Naeli for being in on a team thing because the two of them were always like that, but they obviously needed a third and since Naeli was the black one they needed a white girl, which could have been Rachel but had ended up being Maya. That made sense, but Rachel would have died just to be asked.

“Just let it flow,” Maya said. “LIke, just natural, down.”

“Really?” Rachel asked, pulling it up in the back and frowning. “I was thinking maybe put it up, because it’s supposed to be a helmet? Or this?” She showed Maya a terry cloth sweatband, but Maya had run off to the front door and came back followed by Sabrina.

Sabrina smiled shyly at the girls. She was Iggy Azalea, or more exactly Jenna Marbles being Iggy Azalea, with a huge stuffed butt and a tied-off top and that twist in her blonde hair.

“Oh, my God!” Rachel, Karen and Naeli called out, “Sabrina! You look awesome!” Rachel couldn’t tell if this was true or if she was just shouting what she had to shout.

“I look so stupid,” Sabrina said. “Oh, my God, you guys look just like the movie!”

Naeli said, “I’m Dionne, because I’m the black chick,” and everyone laughed, with a slight nervous edge. This was clearly racist, but it was probably okay because she herself had said it. Rachel wasn’t quite sure.

The political situation only became more complex when Maya ran off to the door again to let in Andrea, the last arrival. She had on a short red skirt outfit with a red dragon print and a sort of red matching cape. She modeled it for them with dramatic flair, gesturing with her hands up and down her skimpy outfit as they cheered.

“Geisha, bitches!” she shouted.

Racist? Rachel asked herself. Yes, the answer came back. But: what to do about it? Also: degrading to women. But, if she was being honest with herself, half of the costumes in the room and most of the ones she expected to see that evening, were going to be that.

“Oh, my God, Rachel,” Andrea started to say, with half a laugh, but then stopped herself.

“What?” Rachel asked, looking at Andrea, then at her brother’s 34 in gold on a red background, extra large and suddenly so, so stupid.

“Nothing,” Andrea said, trying to walk it back.

Rachel immediately and unexpectedly burst into tears. God, she hated this.

Everyone immediately crowded around her, asking “What’s wrong?” in the most sympathetic voices ever.

“Nothing,” Rachel said quickly. The sooner she started talking, the briefer the amount of time that they would all gather around her and make her feel even more pathetic than she already felt. It was horrifying to her: everyone looked so good and so, like, flattering, and she looked like her brother’s middle school football photo. She said, “Obviously this looks so stupid. I had to wear it for my mom, she wanted me to wear it.”

This went over reasonably well, since they all knew Rachel’s mom.

She pulled out her duffel bag. “I was thinking this instead,” absolutely and completely grateful to herself for thinking of bringing a backup just in case. The weird thing was, that was really her mom’s training, bringing a backup costume just in case. She could just hear her mom’s voice: just in case!

Maya was thinking: if you weren’t going to wear the football thing why did you ask me about your hair? But she kept it to herself because it was Rachel.

“What is it?” Naeli asked.

“It’s a slip,” Rachel said, holding it up against her jeans. It was pink, silky and way too skimpy. “And then this,” she pulled a cigar out of the bag and pretended to smoke it.

There was a long silence.

“Freudian slip?” There was a silence. Before she could stop herself, Rachel added, “Do you get it?” and there was silence, just a gaping nothing, in that terrible, endless moment she knew that she was still that little girl in second grade, trying to impress Tina, and strongly and dearly wished that the Earth would open up and swallow her right there and then.

 

McMillan had most of a fifth of Jack Daniels and passed that around. Jerry took a swig and passed it to Tim, pretending that this was the kind of thing he did every day, but privately thinking: that shit is nasty.

“Where’s the party at?” Vinh asked, not for the first time.

Carlos said, “Fucking boring,” to nobody in particular.

Jerry said, “Malik and those guys are going downtown?”

“Fuck that,” Vinh said.

Tim thought, fuck him, who said he gets to decide what happens? But he had no better ideas.

Not too surprisingly, they kept wandering the streets, eating candy, inflicting minor mayhem on mailboxes. Carlos kept scaring or trying to scare little kids, which was in Tim’s opinion stupid as fuck, but no one tried to stop him. VInh checked car doors to see if they were unlocked. They weren’t.

Then Cole looked up from his phone and said, “Maya and those guys, Andrea, are on Washington. I guess they were walking around?”

“Hold up, yeah,” McMillan said.

“Yeah, let’s check that out,” Vinh said. Everyone else had their phones out, but Vinh didn’t. Jerry noticed and tried for a minute to figure out why, then realized that either none of those girls would ever in a million years text Vinh, so why bother, or that it had been taken away by his parents, which duh, Vinh was exactly the kind of guy who would lose phone privileges. Now that Jerry thought about it, he was surprised the guy was allowed out at night on Halloween by his parents. Then Jerry realized: he probably isn’t. Or: they don’t care.

They found the girls on Sycamore near Washington, where the streetlight was yellow and hazy. It was a bit weird for Tim, suddenly these two groups meeting up, but Karen ran over to Cole and hugged him, kind of fake but laughing, so that made it cool for everyone.

Tim was trying very hard not to stare at Andrea. She was wearing this extremely sexy thing, he didn’t know what it was called, like a silk red thing with a dragon and you could see way up her legs and everything, and he didn’t want to seem like he was staring so he said to Maya and Naeli, “Clueless, cool.”

“Thanks,” Maya said. McMillan pulled out the Jack and offered it around and a few of the girls looked guiltily at Maya but took a swig.

“That’ll be gone way too soon,” Carlos said.

“Right?” Karen said. “You have some bud?”

“Seriously,” Vinh said.

Sabrina looked like she felt, out of place. She hated having chosen her Jenna Marbles/Iggy Azalea look because nobody knew what it was, it just looked ridiculous with a pillow in her butt. She stood as near to Rachel as she could, without thinking about why.

Rachel was glad Sabrina was hovering next to her all night because she felt horribly exposed. What the hell had she been thinking, wearing nothing but a slip and a tweed jacket out into the night? Nobody got it, she had long ago thrown the cigar away anyway, and now she just felt stupid and weird. But the guys in bras? What the hell weird kind of sexist bullshit was that supposed to be? She considered asking, but she had never liked McMillan. Carlos was alright if you just talked to him one on one, and she had no idea why anyone tolerated Vinh. He was cute, but he was obviously bad news.

Andrea said, “Hey, Vinh, nice bra.”

This got a pretty big laugh from everyone.

“Got it from his mom,” Carlos said.

Vinh took a sharp, threatening step toward Carlos, who backed away too quickly, making everyone laugh again.

“Got it from your mom,” Vinh said.

“Oooh,” Naeli said.

Andrea scowled in her direction, but Naeli didn’t notice because she was swigging the last of McMillan’s Jack.

Jerry said to Sabrina, “First things first, you’re the realest,” in a terrible Iggy Azalea impression voice, which also got a big laugh and a sort of minor gasp of appreciation from the girls, because he had figured out what she was supposed to be, and a minor inhalation of appreciation from Tim and Cole, who had been trying to figure out how to talk to her or to Andrea but hadn’t been able to think of anything.

Rachel said to Tim, “Hey, Tim,” which was as good an offer as he was going to get that evening, and he knew it. He said, “Hey, Rachel,” and then ran out of things to say.

She said, “Count Dracula?”

He looked confused for a moment, then grabbed at his cape and said, “Oh, no, this? Just a dementor. From --”

“Harry Potter,” Rachel said. “Totally.”

“They suck your soul out,” Sabrina said in a quiet voice, and although both Tim and Rachel nodded, they weren’t quite sure what to say to that.

Andrea thought Vinh was cute but she knew her friends pretty much hated him. This made her both want to not talk to him and extra talk to him, because she hated the feeling of having to not talk to someone or like him because her friends didn’t.

Maya was thinking that Vinh was gross and a little bit scary, so obviously Andrea was going to try to impress everyone by hanging out with him, but the cute one was maybe Carlos?

Vinh said, “I think my bro can hook us up.”

“Cool,” Andrea said quickly, avoiding eye contact with Maya.

Maya was getting really sick of being everyone’s drug czar and was trying to figure out a way to say that but couldn’t, so she just went on her phone as they stood there.

“Where at?” Karen asked, with a voice of experience. “What’s he got?”

“Weed, mostly,” I think, Vinh said. “Maybe some molly.”

“Cool,” Karen said.

Rachel quickly tried to remember what precisely molly was. She had been absent in 8th grade science when this was covered, and there was a little gap right in the middle of her meticulous notes taken from student presentations regarding pot, LSD, cocaine, mushrooms, and alcohol. Sabrina moved a little bit closer to her. Tim picked at something on his cape that wasn’t there.

Jerry said to the group, “Does anyone -- I was thinking -- I was just kind of getting tired, kind of and I was thinking of getting a frappucino? There’s a Starbucks? We don’t have to stay there.”

“Definitely!” Rachel said, with surprising volume.

“I need coffee,” Maya said, although she rarely drank coffee.

“I need something to eat,” Tim said, mostly in order to have something to say.

“Let’s all go, like, freak the normal people out,” Jerry said, although he knew that in a rainbow wig he wasn’t likely to freak anyone out.

Sabrina started to say “Definitely,” but trailed it off into a question when she saw that Andrea didn’t seem as enthusiastic.

There was a clear sense that the group was now about to split. Jerry started walking, with Tim, Rachel, Maya, Sabrina in his wake, but then he noticed that Vinh, Carlos, McMillan, Andrea, Karen and Naeli were still circled around Carlos’s phone.

“Guys?” he said.

 

 

 

Tim

 

If you don’t have your high school diploma you can’t be in the Marines and that basically right there is the entire explanation of why I go to school whatsoever any more. It’s not like you learn anything there, literally everybody knows that, like even the people who try and are all smart and everything know that it’s all bullshit.

Jerry thinks he’s going to go to college and be an engineer and everything but personally I don’t mean to talk shit but I kind of doubt it. Because you have to be really smart for that stuff and don’t get me wrong he’s my best friend probably, but he just isn’t that smart, no offense. The main reason he even takes smart classes is because he wants to be in the same classes as Andrea and Sabrina and Rachel and them. He would deny it but it’s totally obvious. Andrea and Sabrina aren’t even that smart either but don’t get me wrong they’re both hot, like Andrea is beyond hot, but Rachel is nothing special. Basically she looks like a boy. She’s definitely smart, though, obviously, but if she thinks she’s hot then she’s so way off it’s not even funny.

Although I guess who am I to say, because if I think I’m anything special then I’m sure everyone would laugh at me, but also if everyone knew how much I thought about the fact that I’m not that special they would think how pathetic I am, which would be even worse.

But fuck school, basically. You only have to be a junior to start National Guard and I might do that instead of Marines so I don’t even have to graduate but you still have to pass the ASVAB test and I don’t even know why they bother. Like if there’s a war or an emergency and they call the Guard out, why would you need to know stuff like this?

“At Joe’s Restaurant, one-fourth of the patrons are male and one-fifth of the patrons are from out of town. What proportion would you expect to be male and from out of town?”

Like, what the fuck? I saw that on a sample ASVAB and honestly I was pretty bummed. Because I hate that kind of math question and there’s a bunch of other categories and I suck at that. Look, I’m not stupid, I just hate that kind of question. Teachers always ask you that kind of stuff and I hate that kind of thing. But the Guard is sick, my uncle Eduardo was in the Guard and my other uncle Nico was too, and my other other uncle Manuel was in the Marines, and if you have to figure out that kind of test question and they did it then I guess I can too. Hey, Semper Fi. That means always be loyal for Marines. Manuel has it on his shoulder.

I hate how people think that if you’re into the military and are loyal to your country then that makes you some kind of redneck or like psychopath killer wannabe. Those people put their lives on the line for their country and they should get the most respect that anyone can get. And if I have to die in the line of duty then I think that’s just part of how it goes. Like that’s honor. I’m not saying I want to die young or anything but I just hate how everyone in Seattle is so PC that they hate the Marines and they probably wish Bin Laden was still alive although that was Navy Seals, those guys are seriously sick. Like even my mom and me were not into the Iraq war, a lot of good Americans died there for no real reason but I just think if you go and you serve then when you come back, people should treat you with the utmost respect that they have.

I was in class and I was just checking out this site, it wasn’t that big a deal, it’s called Young Guns, it’s basically guys and maybe (I guess?) girls who are like our age but are into being in the military when they’re older.

And Alex was all, “What is that?” because he could see my phone from over my shoulder and there was a sick video of a training course.

“I don’t know where it’s at,” I said. “But if you can do the obstacle course in under 2 hours, that’s basically harder than anything on American Ninja and they said it’s like harder than an Olympic decathlon.”

And Gino who sits kind of next to me but not, the row is kind of crooked, said, “That shit is sick.”

We were kind of whispering but kind of not, because I am not kidding you I think Ms. Perez is literally deaf. Basically she gives you a worksheet and sits at her desk on her computer doing who the fuck knows what, looking at her Facebook and shit.

The girls in bio are mostly a bunch of skinny 9th graders. I mean, I’m a skinny 9th grader and everything, but I’m just saying there’s nobody that’s that hot.

Alex said, “Fuck, I could do that.”

“Yeah, right,” I said. There was a guy on his elbows and knees going through mud under this like wire mesh thing really fast like a long way super super fast, and then as soon as he was out he like leaped up on this climbing wall in one jump. It was so sick.

And I’m not even kidding but Maria Esquivel was watching and I could kind of tell so I kind of tilted it a little, not a lot so I wouldn’t seem like I was trying too hard and she sits next to Alex, on the other side? And she was all, “That guy is hot,” and we all kind of half laughed because just hearing her say it was kind of like, oh we weren’t thinking about that. You could tell she wasn’t even at all doing her work and she just got straight out of her seat and came and looked right at my phone and I swear to God her right boob totally just, like, squished on my shoulder for half a second or even more, and I got all like, glad that the desk was covering my lap so you couldn’t see nothing. And then I was like thinking, oh, shit, did she do that on purpose? She totally pulled away after half a second and to be honest I had never really thought about her much because she doesn’t really do anything, but if you think about it she is kind of pretty although her earrings are way too big and now that I think about it she probably has like huge boobs but she wears like huge sweatshirts and you can’t see anything, but now I can’t get the, like, feeling of it off my shoulder.

And I’m not even just about that. Like I hate when guys have no respect for girls. I’m not even just saying that. Like I know that I seem like this sex maniac and that’s all that I ever think about or whatever, and kind of it is, but right after she pulled off she was still like checking out the video and another one I pulled up, also from Young Guns, and I could feel her breath next to me and it was like, oh damn.

And Alex said to her, “You like that, huh? I got some young guns you could check out.”

And she was all, “Shut up,” and hit him on the shoulder, and he laughed all arrogantly like she was suddenly his girlfriend, and then Ms. Perez said, “Class,” from her desk without looking up and we had to be quiet for like three seconds.

And I just think it’s so rude to just say that to her, like make a sex joke to her right to her face, and I was all going to say to Alex that he was being rude or shut up or whatever, but Maria already had sat back down and I was kind of pissed and disappointed or whatever and kind of relieved because I wasn’t exactly sure what was supposed to be happening next. I glanced back pretending I was scratching my neck and she was already braiding some chick’s hair, our whole, like, encounter was over.

How pathetic is it that I even think that there was an encounter? I mean, I know that, I’m not stupid. I just wish I knew a way to make that happen again, but I am quite quite sure that if I just like, made conversation with her she’d totally diss me. And I’m not even that into her! I just kind of reminded myself that when she sat down and then when the bell rang.

Especially because Jerry suddenly texted me that there was a party tonight and did I want to come and I was like who’s going to be there, but I just stopped walking and leaned against some guy’s locker who got pissed but fuck him, because if a guy says do you want to hang out that means hang out, like video games and shit, but if he says party obviously that means with girls. And Jerry was like, it’s at Andrea’s, and I was like ho shit.

 

 

 

 

The Bonfire

 

Suzette’s dad was ridiculous. Like, all parents were ridiculous? But Maya couldn’t stand how involved he got. She could tell that Suzette couldn’t stand it, either, and there was nothing more awkward than being with your friend when their parents are being weird and embarrassing and you just have to kind of sit there and feel bad for her and not say anything.

Suzette was Maya’s friend from way back when they used to play soccer, and now they were both on the girls volleyball team at Kennedy. Whenever Maya went over to some birthday or even non-birthday at Suzette’s, her dad was always hyper involved in setting up volleyball nets and trampoline contests and water-gun fights and you could tell Suzette wanted to tell him to just stop and go away so she could chill with her friends, but he was super enthusiastic and hyper happy but also pushy and Maya felt bad for Suzette, but also a little bit mad at her, because it was like, can you please yourself just tell your dad to back down?

When they were little kids he wasn’t any different, always setting up treasure hunts and shit like that, but when you’re a little kid that shit is dope. All the moms set up treasure hunts and goodie bags and pinatas and since he was a single dad he was like double trying to prove he could hang with the moms in the competition of doing way too much, and he had never quit.

So for Suzette’s fifteenth he had way early lined up a beach picnic and volleyball spot on Puget Sound, but with a week to go it was becoming Maya’s problem, kind of?

Originally when the plan had been hatched like a month earlier it had been basically a volleyball thing. So it was Maya and Suzette, plus Coleen, Juanita, Kelsey, Stacy, Morgan, Julia and Robin, all the ninth and tenth from the girls’ team. But then the plan kind of morphed, Maya wasn’t clear on all the details, but first of all Colleen got mono or something weird like that, Maya wasn’t sure, she just kept hearing that Colleen was way sick. Then Stacy sort of stopped answering texts, Maya had no idea why. That of course meant that Juanita wasn’t going to come either. Kelsey and Morgan were still down but Julia and Robin were maybes and Suzette pretty much at that point begged Maya not in so many words but begged her to get some more people to come because it obviously would have sucked major to have a birthday party with four girls and a volleyball and a giant cake and a hyper dad trying to get everyone to play duck-duck-goose or whatever his stupid plan was going to be.

So Suzette kind-of-hinted, kind-of-asked if Maya would help get more people. Suzette was so all about volleyball that she basically had no other friends. Maya was sorry if that sounded mean, but it was kind of true. Anyway it kind of became okay if Maya invited people, so she asked Rachel, who was down because she knew Suzette from some science summer camp, they weren’t exactly besties but they were chill enough. That meant that it was okay to invite Andrea and Sabrina, which basically started to feel like Maya was taking over Suzette’s party with Quad Squad, but she felt like Suzette had basically asked her to.

Then there was the boy problem. Suzette was super shy about boys and would not have invited any if Maya hadn’t said she should.

“I just don’t even know anyone,” Suzette had pleaded.

This was after practice the week before the party and they were both on Crescent, the side street where they were waiting for rides, and the only people left at school were a few varsity swimmer guys driving away in their own cars and some band geeks doing band geek things.

“Oh, please,” Maya said, “We go to school with about a million guys.”

“Not that I can just invite to a party!” Suzette said with a kind of hysterical fear mixed with hope.

Maya asked “Why not? They’re just humans.” She sounded so mature to herself but of course on the inside was thinking that she barely knew any guys herself and had never invited any to a party, either.

“But it would just be weird,” Suzette said.

“Fine,” Maya said. “We can have a totally good time without any guys.”

“But like, who would it be?” Suzette said, scratching the top of one shoe with the bottom of the other in a nervous, kind of little-girl way.

“You know Ben and Jerry?”

Suzette frowned. “I know Jerry, I guess? Jerry Majors? He’s funny? Who’s Ben?”

“Oh, that’s just a nickname. Tim. Like the ice cream?”

“There’s a Tim ice cream? God, I’m so out of it.”

“No,” Maya exhaled, getting a little exasperated. “Look, here’s what I would do if it was my party. I would invite Jerry, and I would invite his friend Tim—”

“Oh, I totally know him! The zitty one?”

“Yeah.”

“Oh, my God, that was so mean, I’m sorry.”

“It’s all good,” Maya said, even though out of loyalty to a sort-of friend from Q Squad she felt a little sorry for Tim. It would kind of suck to be known as the zitty one your whole life, even if it was kind of true.

She said, “If they both come then if it’s get awkward or they don’t want to hang out with girls they’ll have each other so it won’t be too weird, and then we can also invite Tony -- plus Sasha.”

“Oh, I like them. They’re so cute!”

“Right?”

“Will they play volleyball and stuff or just, like, make out and stuff?”

“Isn’t your dad going to be there?”

“Yeah, good point.”

Suzette did some math. “That’s like twelve girls and three guys, one of which is Tony, which is basically not a guy who’s going to hang out like a guy, right? So do we need more?”

“I don’t know, it’s not like there’s a rule of evenness.”
“Maybe we should just not invite any!” Suzette said, getting nervous again.

Maya had to control her frustration. “It’s your party,” she said.

“I’ll text you. I have to talk to my dad about inviting guys in the first place. Here he comes.”

She grabbed her volleyball bag and ran off, and Maya thought how weird it was that she had ended up being the expert on boys when her experience was basically none, just that she had a few more friends than Suzette.

So far Maya had been kissed three times, and in eighth grade had possibly dated Simon for a week. The fact that it was a possibly basically summed up how great it had gone. Mostly it had been a thing to do so that she could tell her friends that she had done it, because they all thought Simon was cute, which really when you so-called dated him, he wasn’t. She thought about what had happened to Simon. He hadn’t moved, but she never saw him any more. It was weird how people could disappear from your life like that.

Over the next couple of days it got super annoying because people kept texting Maya asking who was going to be there and Maya hated how if you came up with an idea for a thing you were somehow responsible for everyone who came and everything that happened and how good a time everybody had. And it wasn’t even her party!

 

Mike got a text from Cole asking if he wanted to go to Suzette’s birthday party bonfire on Saturday. The answer of course was of course, but he didn’t want to say that, because he would seem desperate. He waited and tried to think of the best way to say it.

He asked some of the guys in Guild Wars if they were new to a school if they would go to a party for someone he didn’t even know who she was and of course they all said go for it and gross stuff, but Trev01 who was someone Mike had known for years from Guild and from World of Warcraft before that said that it was kind of weird and he should at least maybe DM her on IG before to say hi I’m coming?

That got Mike nervous, because he hated Instagram. Everyone on it was super happy and posting pictures of their football runs or their skate tricks or for girls their sunsets and dancing and shit, and Mike didn’t really have anything to post. He’d only been at Kennedy for a few months and ever since the Halloween disaster he had kind of been avoiding trying so hard to make new friends. Like, it was okay and great and everything to make new friends, but he knew now that when you were the new guy sometimes you tried everything and that got you in more trouble. He was finally not grounded and he was pretty sure he’d be allowed to go to the bonfire, but he was probably better off just hanging out and playing some Guild and not getting caught up in Kennedy drama.

He thought this for about twenty minutes, then stalked Suzette on IG. She was cute, not bad, always in volleyball pics with a bunch of skinny girls that he kind of knew but didn’t. Her bio was volleyball is life, which was whatever. Anyway she hadn’t invited him even, Cole had. Cole was in three of Mike’s classes so he had kind of adopted him and was pretty chill but Mike wouldn’t really call him a friend. Cole was friends with that guy Jerry, who was super chill. Jerry was like the most popular guy in Kennedy 9th, as far as Mike could tell. Cole said that Ben and Jerry were going, which meant Tim the zitty guy, and probably all of their friends who were always acting like they were the coolest people in the world and ignoring other people and going somewhere to lunch without inviting anyone who wasn’t so supremely cool as them. Mike usually ended up eating his mom’s chicken salad sandwiches, gross, at school and playing on his phone.

So, okay then, he suddenly dared himself, if you want so much to not be that guy on his phone at lunch eating chicken salad, go for it. Before he could change his mind he hit Cole to ask for a ride to the thing and Cole said, yeah but don’t bail like Halloween, haha.

The thing about haha was that it was never haha. Mike wrote ok back but what he really felt was awful. He was such a loser, sometimes. He wished he had done the whole Halloween thing different, but now it was too late obviously and Cole kind of had the right to bring it up, just not to keep bringing it up.

 

You had to get to the best spots early, it was first come first served at the beach, and Maya’s guess was that Suzette’s dad had arrived at dawn with his zinc on his nose and his big tent thing and healthy snacks and plenty of water in an environmentally appropriate huge orange jug that you were supposed to fill your Camelbak from, but backup red Solo cups and a Sharpie to mark them for those who hadn’t.

Maya and Andrea and Rachel and Sabrina all got a ride from Maya’s mom. She kept asking horribly embarrassing questions about which girl was going to go to college where or whatever and Maya tried changing the subject and even said mom like three times, but it didn’t really help. Finally when they got there Maya said that it was over at 9 and to pick them up then when she knew for a fact that Suzette’s dad had given everyone a major 7 p.m. deadline but it was like, who ends a Saturday night party at 7, that’s ridiculous, even if you do start at 2, but also like sort of revenge for Maya for her mom kind of ruining the whole ride and making Maya feel stupid.

Basically nothing that big a deal happened for about three hours. Suzette’s dad had at least gotten some normal non-environmental snacks, probably after five hours of Suzette begging and having to deal with guilt about the Earth and being healthy, but anyway it was at least normal food and a really nice day out. It got sort fun with playing some volleyball and laughing about how bad Andrea and Rachel were, but they were being funny about it so that was cool, clowning and swimming and stuff and eating BBQ potato chips and listening to music and playing who can guess the song first.

Sabrina didn’t want to play volleyball and just chilled at the water alone a lot of the time but whenever anyone checked on her including Suzette’s dad she said she was totally cool and kind of happy to be at the water and alone, just thinking. It wasn’t that weird, and she was smiling more than usual, so it seemed okay to Maya, who almost but didn’t feel like trying to calculate whether Sabrina was stoned and if so on what and if so when she would come down. Like, at a certain point it became not Maya’s problem. Probably in the first place, if she was being honest with herself.

But then, after 5, a bunch more people started showing up, including guys. Sasha and Tony and Jerry and Tim and Cole and New Mike and Malik and Latrell and Lauren and also Zachary and Emily, which was super awkward because everyone knew that Lauren and Zachary had been hanging out a lot but he supposedly was still going out with Emily and all three of them were hanging out together! So maybe it wasn’t awkward? Except that it was, because Maya could totally tell by the way that Zachary looked super uncomfortable and the way Emily never really looked at Lauren. Weird.

Andrea broke off from the volleyball people and started messing with Malik and Latrell, which was cool enough, Maya figured, because those guys were sort of outsiders and it was cool of Andrea to bring them in, even though the big problem was that Suzette and her dad were obviously kind of freaked out because her dad didn’t know half of these people and Suzette had to talk to him privately and tell him that they were nice kids and that she had invited them, which wasn’t exactly true, and please dad don’t make a scene; and then to make it much more awkward, Suzette’s dad had Suzette bring Maya over to basically vouch for everyone all over again as though he didn’t trust his daughter’s word, which basically he apparently didn’t.

As far as Maya was concerned it was seeming pretty chill, a lot of cool people having fun, even though she hadn’t really technically invited half of them that she said that she had? It was more like if you invited certain people you could reasonably expect that they would bring someone else, so it wasn’t exactly a lie to say that she had invited them. Karen and Naeli were always at everything, so whatever, and even though the Zachary and his two girls thing was super awkward they were normal people and it wasn’t like Suzette -- or more like her dad -- had to worry about them murdering anyone in their sleep.
Ben and Jerry had obviously brought Cole who had obviously brought Mike Jorgensen that everyone called New Mike. Maya thought that was rude, the poor guy obviously felt bad enough sticking out in the first place for being new, it didn’t help to tease him about it, plus now that she was watching him play frisbee and laugh with the guys she realized that he was much better looking than she had realized, and now that she thought, that she realized she’d been watching him all year, and now she got a kind of inability to swallow for a moment and a rush of adrenaline in her belly and she thought, God, just for some guy?

 

Mike figured that the cure for being this nervous was just to do stuff. If he just stood around eating potato salad and drinking soda he would have to talk to people and that could get weird and if he just stayed active he could be part of things and not have to worry about it. He played frisbee and then got in some wrestling matches that were just fun but extra funny although harder in the sand, two on two for some reason, and he got on the same team as the zitty guy, Tim, which was cool because they kept winning. Mike kept glancing out of the corner of his eye to see what the girls were doing and if they were watching him and what the hot one by the water was all about. That was Sabrina, he was pretty sure, the one Tim had pegged with a tennis ball in P.E. Maybe she was still mad about that? Maybe he should go ask?

Then they went to the tent thing to get drinks and Jerry shook up a bottle of Diet Coke and sprayed it everywhere which was kind of an asshole thing to do because the dad was right there and looking kind of pissed at the wasted soda, but also hilarious because it shot out like intensely everywhere and got on Mike’s shirt and shorts. And even though he was pissed everyone, even the girls and stuff were laughing really hard, and he was kind of proud of himself for not freaking out about it and taking it in stride and instead he turned it into a joke and took the empty bottle down to the ocean water and filled it up and tried to spray it at Jerry but it wouldn’t really spray and Jerry was dodging so Mike ended up kind of running around splashing everyone, and the girls all shrieked if even a drop hit them or even if nothing, just for the sake of shrieking.

Other people got bottles and cups of water and there was a general water fight, not that vicious because people were trying to also be sort of polite about it since half of them didn’t know each other that well really and there was a dad there and it was also kind of a middle school thing to do in the first place and people were trying to seem like they were mature, while having a water fight.

Mike went down to fill his empty Diet Coke up again at the water and that girl was down there, the pretty one, Sabrina.

He said, “I’m just filling this with water.”

She said, “I know,” but just when it was about to get super awkward she added, “People are having fun.”

He said, “Yeah, it’s cool. I don’t really know that many people that well.”

She smiled. “Me neither.”

He said, “Yeah,” and then couldn’t think of anything else to say, and headed back to spray people with more water. But then it was like that Sabrina chick had kind of made him okay for girls to talk to or something? Because then Rachel, the skinny one that everyone seemed to know, told him that he really needed some Mentos and told him about a time that she and Maya had done the thing with Mentos and Coke, and then Maya came over and explained it all over again, even though it wasn’t that complicated or interesting a story in the first place, and then Andrea yelled over that they were telling it wrong, but didn’t come over to correct them.

Then after a while people started packing up, especially the dad, and Mike felt like, damn, just when things were going good. But then Cole came around and said that basically they were going to stick around, but they had to make it seem like they were leaving or the dad would get pissed and call all the parents.

 

It was so awkward, Maya was thinking, the whole thing was like this ridiculous childish theater game or something where they all pretended for Suzette’s father that they were leaving when he was, and he packed up everything and put it in his car and kept checking if everyone had a ride and everyone said that they did and kind of hung out by the sidewalk looking like they were going to get picked up and checking their phones, and then when the dad finally, finally left, they went right back to the bonfire, which he had mostly put out, and tried to start it up again.

It was so ridiculous but also fun, as soon as Suzette’s dad had been out of sight, to sprint off through the sand like they were spies or something and had gotten away with some amazing mission impossible when in fact all they had done was lie that they had rides this early. It made Maya feel kind of like an ugly little liar but also like it wasn’t her dad and he didn’t need to ask her a million times if she was going to be okay.

Now the party got way different pretty fast. It got dark pretty fast, too, and someone started passing around a joint or two, and a big thing of bacardi, Maya wasn’t even that 100% sure what bacardi was, but obviously not something Suzette’s dad would have approved of. Karen seemed to be an expert on it and on checking if adults or cops were wandering the beach and when. Lauren was drinking kind of a lot, and Zachary some, but not Emily. Malik and Andrea were kind of locked in on smoking a joint together and Maya started to wonder if there was something between the two of them. A few people had a phone going and were rapping along to it really obnoxiously but Maya still thought it was kind of funny.

Jerry and Tim put themselves on fire-building duty and Cole kept checking to see if the dad was coming back. Rachel went off to go check on Sabrina. It was at that point that Maya noticed that she was the only person not doing something, except for Mike, and that he didn’t seem to be into the drugs either, so on a personal self-dare she went over and said, “Hey, what’s up, Mike?”

He said, “Hey, Maya,” in a comfortable way, as though they always talked to each other, but as far as Maya could remember they had never really said much of anything.

She said, “I feel kind of guilty,” surprising herself because that was more information than she actually would have wanted to share, but something about him made her talk maybe more than she should have. Something?, she asked herself. Well, duh, what could it be?

“I know,” he said. “It’s not great that we lied to him.”

Maya was super glad that Mike knew what she meant. She said, “I mean, I don’t think it’s that big a deal being here.”

He said, “Right, it’s, like, a free country and everything, but the part where we all went up to the sidewalk was like --”

“I know,” she said. “Plus I’m lying to my mom, basically.”

“Yeah, me too, but I feel like that’s different. Isn’t it different if you lie to your own mom than to somebody else’s dad?”

“Yes,” she said. “But I’m not sure why.”

They were walking now, she noticed. Not going anywhere in particular, but sort of heading away from the others, who were being noisy and some of them annoying and shouting dirty lyrics extra loud.

He said, “Because if you lie to your own mom then you have to face the consequences if you get caught, but for that girl’s dad you don’t, she does.”
“Suzette, yeah, that’s exactly it.”

He shrugged, and she smiled.

She didn’t want to focus on the fact that he was the new guy, but she was curious and couldn’t think of anything else to say so she asked where he had come from and what he thought of Kennedy.

The answer turned out to be longer and cooler than she had thought, because it felt to her like he saw things a lot, a lot the way that she did, like all the stupid rules about how people were supposed to be, and all the cliques at Kennedy and everything like that. He was super easy to talk to.

And the two of them kept walking and they were way off almost on the next connecting beach and they couldn’t hear much from the others now although she could still see them when she glanced back, trying to get the fire bigger with new logs they had probably stolen from somewhere.

She and Mike kind of ran out of space to walk so they stopped, looking out to the water, and Mike took the sweatshirt from around his waist and set it down like a mini blanket and offered her to sit on it. So she did and on a personal dare again scooched over so that it was obvious that he should sit on the other half of it, which really wasn’t that big. He hesitated only for a second, then sat next to her.

Oh my God, Maya thought to herself, I think he’s going to kiss me.

Shit, Mike thought, am I supposed to kiss her? I think so? But what if she thinks I’m being too fast?

So they looked out at the water for a long minute or two and said nothing at all, their sides touching but not their legs, which were carefully scooched away from the middle at a little angle outward, and Maya thought that it was so awkward, but also kind of nice, just to sit there quietly and not feel like they had to say anything.

Come on! Mike said to himself. [Just do it! Why would she sit with you on your shirt, and all close and everything, if she didn’t want you to?
He’s not going to,] Maya thought. Which is fine, I barely know him.
Mike thought, better off waiting, that way you get to know her better and not move too fast.

Maya thought, oh my God, get it over with already!

Mike thought, fuck, my breath smells like Doritos so bad.

Maya thought, I think he’s into Sabrina, anyway. He was talking to her before and they seemed kind of into each other?

Mike said to himself, okay on three. One, two, three, and then he put his hand on her hand.

Maya gave a little laugh for no reason except to say, it’s cool, it’s okay, and curled her fingers around his. He curled his back around and they both sort of laughed gently and then they were holding hands.

Mike now felt like it was cool although he couldn’t see her that well in the growing darkness, but he leaned his face in a sort of test distance, and then she did the same, and then he kissed her.

Maya’s brain felt like it was on fire. The first kiss wasn’t that amazing, but it was happening! She was actually kissing a guy who seemed to actually like her and it wasn’t at all like with Simon whatever weirdness that was, she never actually even liked him, and it was also not some weird dare game at a party, just two people kissing.

They did it again, and he smiled and so did she, and he said, “I guess I like Kennedy better than I thought,” and she laughed at that. Too much, she knew, but still. He put a hand on her shoulder and the other was still holding her hand and now they started kissing more. It was different now, way better, Maya could hardly breathe, it was deeper and way French and her arm went around his back and she kind of kept massaging his back muscles.

They did that for a long time and then they paused and came up for air and laughed in an embarrassed way, as though they had shared a weird secret, which basically they had.

Maya wasn’t sure what was supposed to happen next or how to start it up again, but she suddenly found herself kissed him, starting it herself this time, first on the cheek and then on the lips. And then he was kissing her back, really energetic now and she was totally into it and she let go of his hand to get a better angle and he turned so he was more facing her, and she put her hand on his knee for stability and wondered in some corner of her brain if Rachel and Sabrina and them could see them and what they were thinking, and did they even like him?
And then they were really kissing deeply, and he took her hand from his knee in his hand and suddenly pulled it up his thigh so it was on top of the bulge in his shorts and she jumped up and said “Oh!” and stood stunned for a second, and then raced crying and shaking back to the bonfire, back to Rachel, who hugged her and held her without needing to know why.

 

 

 

 

What Happened

 

 

“WHAT HAPPENED????” Sabrina texted the group, but no one was texting back. They were all probably driving home with their moms and having to make conversation about how did the bonfire go, and they couldn’t answer. Sabrina had had a good time and she hadn’t even been high even though everyone had thought she had been, she had just been enjoying tripping on the water and the sand and the beauty of everything, and being able to realize that the world is a cool place without putting some shit in her body, unless you count a bunch of Lay’s potato chips and two pieces of that volleyball girl’s gross birthday cake, who still gets birthday cakes from Safeway?, and like nine red cups of Sprite that she had to pee about twenty times in the skanky fake bathroom, but in the end it was all a really good day, except that when she was toward the end at the fire Maya had run up to Rachel crying, and Sabrina had thought that Maya had been hanging out with that new boy, but why was she crying?
Andrea was the first one home. Her mom wanted to talk about some stupid college plan shit, supposedly they were going to get her an advisor to help with tutoring and also plan out the college essays and where to apply and all that shit and Andrea felt like, God, first of all I’m just trying to enjoy a Saturday night, I’ve been out all day, leave me alone, and second of all I’m in 9th grade why do I have to apply to colleges, and third of all, I don’t even know if I want to go to any stupid college, and fourth and most importantly of all, is Malik into me or not?

Because he was being such a confusing asshole, and she needed to figure it out now, because if he thought that she was all about some 9th grade boy, the fact that he should know was that she could easily be going out with at least 5 10th grade guys that she personally knew of, so yeah.

She texted, “ya details please,”

Rachel finally texted in with, “We’re here for you, but It’s been kind of a long day, maybe we could just check in at school or something if you want to, Maya?”

But Maya didn’t check in at all, and the other three were left to wonder through the evening and Sunday what the hell that had all been about.

 

Mike didn’t talk to his dad on the drive home. His dad wanted to bond or something like that, asking all kinds of questions about the bonfire, actually it sounded like he was trying to figure out if people had been drinking and even though they had that wasn’t the point because Mike hadn’t, but most importantly because of what had happened.

He was so sick with himself that he felt like he was going to puke. He didn’t sleep much that night and on Sunday he told his dad that he was sick and just stayed in bed all day feeling horrible, horrible, horrible. Every time he thought about it he felt so bad, and he had really liked her and he had thought that she had like him, well, obviously she had sort of, but then he had blown it, like choked like the Seahawks when Russell Wilson had been intercepted on the last play of the game, it was exactly like that, you’re going along and you think everything is working right and you’re about to score and win the Super Bowl and then you call the stupidest play of all time, and you lose.

That was him, he had been trying to just be cool and then they had been kissing and stuff and why, why, why had he been so so gross, and pervie, and just gross ? Like, he could just feel her hand, small but warm, on his knee and just, like -- he cringed, again, over and over, thinking about it, lying in his bed with the covers up to his chin and staring at the ceiling and thinking about how fucked up the world was. Because the Seahawks? If they had just not blown it, then everyone would have thought that it was great and everything and they would have been heroes, but they messed up and after that for like, months, for years, all anyone could say was how Pete Carroll had choked and called the wrong play and the Seahawks had fucked up and there was no going back. And everyone knew about it.

People were posting all kinds of bonfire stuff to IG but Mike barely had the guts to look at it. When the pictures weren’t with Maya in them he could look but he wasn’t liking or tagging anyone, just lurking, and if she was in one then he had to scroll away because he felt so gross.

Jerry and Tim and Cole and Mike had a group dm and Cole wrote, “Cool party,” and Tim said, “Nice,” and Jerry said, “You had fun Mike am I right?” and that was like, obviously about the fact that everyone had seen them walk away from the others at the fire and probably seen them, like, making out or whatever, but did they know what had happened? What he had done? Had she, like, told them? God, he hoped not.

He texted, “good time,” and stayed at home sick on Monday, then again on Tuesday. On Tuesday night his dad said he would have to go to school on Wednesday or go to the doctor and Mike lay in bed trying to decide.

 

They didn’t go to the DQ at lunch because between everyone having stuff to do at first break and Rachel having this one Monday off and a lot of catching up needing to happen they agreed to just hang just the four of them and talk, but they were all starving so they walked to the lame gas station minimart where the guy who worked there sold meth, everyone said, and got for lunch just Funyuns and hot nachos with fake cheese from the squirty thing and slurpees and ice cream.

Maya had been dreading this so much but a part of her knew that she could only put it off for so long and she had been thinking about it all Sunday even though she had been majorly busy, her parents had forced her to go to her nana’s house for like ever, they had gotten home at eight and she still had homework and in the morning she had just rushed around like a usual Monday morning and tried not to think about it and didn’t say anything in PE, luckily he wasn’t even there today, but she kind of ignored the girls, even though she kind of wanted to ask them stuff but it was so embarrassing.

They sat on the little wall next to the air pump thing at the gas station and Andrea chucked litter, the little circle lid from her drumstick ice cream, and Rachel picked it up and threw it away and everyone made fun of Rachel for being a goody-good and of Andrea for ruining the Earth, but then it was, like, impossible to avoid, so Maya just started.

“So, Saturday night was weird,” she said.

“What happened?” Sabrina asked. “I thought it was, like, a good time. I mean, for you. With, like …” she trailed off, wondering if she had messed something up.

“With Mike,” Andrea said, kind of ignoring Sabrina, which made Rachel wonder for the millionth time what the deal was with Andrea and Sabrina and what it was all about. Andrea said, “Weren’t you and him making out?”

“What was it like?” Rachel wanted to know, then got mad at herself because she had let her own curiosity jump in front of the fact that Maya obviously had had something weird happen.

“okay, so don’t think I’m weird?” Maya started. “But, like, yeah, you guys know me and Mike were like, talking and stuff at the party/”
“Talking!” Andrea laughed. “I was going to go get you guys a condom.”

“Oh, my God!” Sabrina said, but half laughing, “Can you not, Andrea?”

Maya buried her face in her hands.

Andrea said, “What? They were like, seriously…”

“Oh, no, come on, don’t,” Rachel said, because she thought that Maya had maybe started crying again, but Maya was actually just freaking out at Andrea in a funny way.

Maya said, “Oh, my God, Andrea, I’m so not going to say anything if you’re going to—”

“Okay, okay!” Andrea said. “God! What a bunch of … just, go ahead!”

“We were --”

“Like you guys don’t know what a condom is,” Andrea said.

“Just go ahead!” Rachel said.

“Ignore her,” Sabrina said. She grabbed Andrea from behind and put her palm across Andrea’s mouth and even though all of them had kind of been wondering if maybe Andrea was mad at Sabrina or something, it was okay at least right now because Andrea just laughed and flicked Sabrina’s face with her ponytail and they broke away laughing.

“Anyway!” Rachel announced, herding them back in.

“Well, so,” Maya said. She waited a moment to see if Andrea was going to jump in again, but she didn’t. “We kind of made out, I don’t know, it was kind of fun, honestly? It was totally fun. But then? So, I think I did something wrong? Or maybe let him, like, think something that he shouldn’t have thought?”

The rest just listened, so there was no chance of backing out now.

She said, “Well, so we were, like, kissing? You know? And then I put my hand on his knee, and then he like, grabbed my hand and put it on his thing,” she said, the last words coming out in a quick rush.

“Ew!” Sabrina said.

“Oh!” Rachel said. She rushed over to hug her. “Oh, my God, I’m so sorry!”

Sabrina rushed over, too. Maya felt a little crushed but appreciated the thought.

“I didn’t realize,” Rachel said, remembering hugging Maya at the bonfire.

Andrea, who hadn’t come over to Maya, was shaking her head a bit with a smile. “Oh, Mike, Mike, Mikey. Was it tiny?” she asked, laughing. “How long were you looking for it?”

“Oh, my God,” Sabrina said, but she was sort of laughing, too.

“That’s not the point!” Rachel said, upset. “That’s, like, forced sex or something? Like rape but obviously not that. I mean, did he coerce you?”

Everyone was suddenly staring at Rachel. She said, “What?”

“I don’t know!” Maya said. “I don’t know what you’re talking about. Rape?”

“No,” Sabrina said, “Like, did he make you do it, or did you, like, want to?”

Maya said, “No, I didn’t want to! How can you say that?”

“Sorry, sorry,” Sabrina said.

“I’m not a slut!” Maya said.

“No, obviously,” Sabrina said.

“Why not?” Andrea said. “Didn’t you want to see what it felt like?”

“That’s not the point!” Rachel said.

“How do you always know what the point is?” Andrea asked.

“Oh, my God we have to start walking back but we need to talk about this,” Sabrina said.

They started walking, but Maya said, “I don’t even know what the point is. The point is, it was weird, like I said. I mean, he didn’t hurt me or even, like, touch me anywhere?” But I wasn’t expecting that?”

“I think it’s coercion,” Rachel said.

“Okay, Ms. Feminist,” Andrea said, “Everybody gets it. What are you going to do, arrest him?”

“No,” Maya said, “It’s not even like that. I mean, yeah, it happened, but I think I kind of led him on? Like I feel like I should have seen that coming? I mean, my hand was on his leg and everything, and I was totally kissing him.”

“He’s such a perv,” Sabrina said. “Are you going to report him?”

Rachel said, “It’s a violation of the school code for sure.”

“Oh my God, are you people even listening?” Andrea demanded. “She doesn’t want to report him for shit. Do you?”

“No, obviously not,” Maya said, grateful to Andrea, who just now was somehow proving that she was her very best and oldest friend and was the one who, even though she pretended to be all crude and everything, got her.

“But he kind of forced you, is what we’re saying,” Sabrina said. “And you shouldn’t blame yourself for something he did.”

“Right?” Rachel demanded.

“I don’t know,” Maya said. “I don’t know.”

“Back up to when you were kissing him,” Andrea said. “Was it hot?”

“I mean, yeah?”

“And then you had your hand on his knee and he was like, here, touch my dick? Is that basically it?”

Maya blushed, a little surprised that after all of this she could still blush. “That’s basically it,” she confirmed.

“Oh, my God, this is such not a big thing,” Andrea said, then laughed and said. “I’m not talking about his D.”

“Oh, my God, can you not?” Sabrina said.

“No, for serious!” Andrea said, done laughing for the moment. “They had a great time, they’re healthy young individuals, they made out, he thought, oh, hey, maybe she wants to touch my dick, and Maya, you were all, no, not really, dude. So what? Nobody died. What’s the big fucking deal? It’s like you’re all thinking he assaulted her or something. He’s just a dude, he wants someone to pet his pecker. What?”

She had to stop and look angry, because the other three were cracking up at her phrase.

“Jesus,” she said. “You people are so immature.”
“What are you going to do?” Rachel asked. “I mean, are you going out with him?”

“I don’t know,” Maya said thoughtfully. “I mean, maybe? He was super nice, too, I forgot to mention. Like, we liked each other, and then.”

“If he asked you out again would you go?” Sabrina asked.

“Maybe lay down some ground rules?” Rachel suggested.

“No getting preggers,” Andrea said. “That’s a good one.”

“You need to shut it,” Sabrina said.

“God, you guys are so shocked at every little thing, like you don’t know that guys have dicks and they want girls to touch them. Oh, news flash.”

Rachel thought, wait, is that what they want?

Sabrina said, “Like you’re such an expert.”

“I know!” Maya said.

“She talks such a big game,” Sabrina said.

“Okay, you know what?” Andrea said. “Maybe I’m not as experienced as some people I could mention? I could pretend I am, but I’m not. But I’m also not going to pretend that I don’t understand how basic human sex works.”

Maya thought for a moment, then said, “I don’t know if I’d go out with him again. It’s not like we actually really went out in the first place?”

Rachel said, “If he was a decent person he would have at least called or texted you or something.”

“Nothing,” Maya said.

“That’s some bullshit right there,” Andrea said.

“Right?” Sabrina confirmed.

They were about to split for their separate classroom destinations, but there was something left to say. They stood there for a moment, but none of them quite knew what it was. Something had changed. What Maya had done had put her in a different category, from which there would never be any going back in a girl’s life. None of the rest of them knew what to say about it.

Maya said, “Thanks, people,” and they all hugged, in a surprisingly emotional way, until Andrea said, “Think I’ll go text Mike,” and they all ran off to class, laughing.

 

 

 

 

 

Ms. Rodale’s Class

 

“Heard you were dead,” was the only thing that anyone said to Mike when he came back on Thursday. It was Jerry, in P.E. The entire goal of school that day, in fact pretty much that year for Mike, and especially in P.E., was to avoid eye contact with Maya, so talking to Jerry about just about anything was just fine. In a minute the girls would come out and he was fine with him and Jerry hanging out near the chain link fence watching traffic; in fact, if he could have stayed right there the whole day, instead of having to go to classes and see her, that would be fine.

“You heard right,” Mike said. “Had to go to the doctor.”

“Sucks,” Jerry said.

Cole came over and started to explain the plot of the Star Trek movie, which he had seen twice. Mike, who hadn’t seen it, started to say no spoilers, but he stopped himself. Any conversation was better than that conversation, the one he was desperately, desperately trying to avoid.

Tim and Malik had also come over and Malik and Cole had started arguing about what had actually happened in the time travel part of the movie, and then Mr. K. said, “People,” and they all went to line up. Mike went head down and found his place and didn’t look up until they had been grouped off and thank God she wasn’t on his team or on any team he played that day.

 

In the locker room, Rachel said to Maya, “He’s totally ignoring you.”

“So rude,” Sabrina said.

“It’s whatever,” Maya said. She had been hurt that he wouldn’t even say hello but obviously the whole bonfire thing had been a bigger deal to her than to him. Which was sometimes how it went.

“Guys are so lame,” Rachel said, and Maya nodded, even though she didn’t know if she agreed. Rachel thought how lame she herself actually was for offering opinions on how lame guys were, but actually knew nothing really about the subject, she had never even kissed a boy unless you counted Cesar, which she didn’t, it was barely a kiss, although if she had to judge from Cesar then yes boys were lame, but that was what her dad would call too small a sample size.

Outside, Rachel found herself walking in the same direction and in the same step as Jerry, side by side, unplanned. They both noticed but neither one of them said anything, except they both started laughing but not making eye contact. They were both going to English, so they had to go across the whole main quad and up the stairs. The problem was, Rachel thought, that his strides would be too big and she thought about the ratio and common denominator problem in this real world math problem but that distracted her and got her off stride, but then he gave a little kick-jump to match up strides again and they were both cracking up but kept walking straight ahead. It was a problem when they got to other people. Around the middle of the quad Jerry got stopped altogether because four basketball guys walked right across his path, so he would have been way out of stride with Rachel, but she thought fast and pulled out her phone and pretended to check it so that she was also barely moving, and then when Jerry’s way was clear again, she put it away and walked in stride with him.

Rachel thought, this is so dumb, I hope Andrea and Maya and them aren’t watching, what would they say, I’ll bet they would say that I’m trying way too hard, and that anyway if you’re going to hang out with a guy then some day you’re going to have to speak to him, but what does it even matter what they say, I think it’s fun and I don’t know when it became not cool to have fun but whatever I’m going to keep doing it.

Jerry thought, Rachel’s cool.

Walking that weird way made them slower than usual and Rachel was hoping that even though the seats were assigned and everything, Jerry might sit next to her or at least hang out before class or something. But instead he went over and sat next to Andrea which wasn’t even his seat but for some reason since Ms. Rodale had moved him a few times for talking too much now it wasn’t even clear what his seat was and today instead of sitting back next to Cole, he sat down next to -- no, Rachel thought -- on top of Andrea. It was kind of embarrassing, honestly.

Rachel decided to ignore all that and he daily PA announcements while she and Maya and pulled out their notebooks and checked who was wearing what now that P.E. was over. Jerry and Andrea kept laughing like crazy about something, it was super annoying. Rachel sighed and rolled her eyes toward Maya.

“Seriously,” Maya whispered.

“Like, out of control much?” Rachel whispered back, hating herself a little bit. She knew that walking in step with a guy from one class to another didn’t mean that you owned him, but it was extra frustrating that Andrea couldn’t maybe be a little more loyal even if she did sit next to Jerry. She had seen Jerry and Rachel come in together,

The laughter was, like, seriously out of control as far as Rachel was concerned. Apparently some kind of dare had been involved. All Rachel knew was that they were passing their journals back and forth and laughing like some kind of hyenas, and it was quite irritating. Quite, quite irritating.

Maya leaned back toward Rachel and whispered, “Oh, Andrea, you’re so hilarious,” in a fake Jerry voice that didn’t sound anything like him. It was more the idea of an impression than the actual thing.

Rachel whispered back to Maya, “Oh, Andrea, thank you. I think you’re so hilarious, too. And so very hot.”

“Really?” Maya asked. “You don’t think my boobs are too big?”

“Not at all,” Rachel said. “I find them a perfect size. And your shorts look really good from behind. I know because I was staring when we were walking in.” This was true, but Rachel felt guilty saying it.

Maya said, “How nice. Well, I think you are stunningly handsome, Jerry.” She looked around a bit but no one was listening so she added with a giggle, “And I think you smell delicious.”

“Really?” Rachel wondered, “I was worrying that maybe I put on too much Axe.”

“Oh, don’t worry,” Maya said. “There’s no such thing!”

“… rest of us,” Ms. Rodale said.

People around them were sort of paying attention to her and sort of wondering what was going on with Andrea and Jerry, and sort of trying to listen to Ms. Rodale and give a shit about another school day, all at the same time.

“It was nothing major,” Andrea said.

“Yeah,” Jerry agreed, and Rachel deduced that Ms. Rodale had asked them to share with the rest of the class whatever was so funny. This was obvious because of A. The context, and B. The extremely annoying fact to Rachel that teachers always ask anyone who is having an actual good time to share it with the class.

“Seemed major,” Karen said without raising her hand.

Naeli, who was of course next to her, said, “Seemed seriously major.”

“It’s only second period,” Andrea said without looking back at them, “So I’m seriously confused how it can be 4:20 already.”

This got her a laugh from most of the class. Of course it did. Rachel frowned, annoyed. The rules were: if you were in elementary school, any reference to bodily functions got a laugh. If you were in middle school, any reference to sex whatsoever got you a laugh. If you’re in high school -- wait, I just said high school, isn’t that hilarious? Do you get it? Do you, do you get it?

“All we were doing,” Jerry volunteered, because he was getting left out of things, “Was reading those journal things of yours.”

Ms. Rodale half smiled. “You mean, of yours?”

“Yeah, that.”

Ms. Rodale looked up from the laptop. Rachel couldn’t tell if she had finished taking roll, but then immediately regretted it, certain that she needed to stop caring about stupid things like that. There was growing evidence that she not only was a goody-good, but was going to be stuck being one the rest of her life.

Ms. Rodale said, “That’s kind of interesting.” She stood up from the laptop and started pacing in front of the whiteboard. She said, “The point of the Know Thyself project is obviously to get to know oneself better. But what if it was instead to get to know someone else better?”

Rachel thought right then at that moment, do I want to know someone else better? Who? And then, after a second, added, whom, and then, you’re such an idiot.

Ms. Rodale pivoted back to center in her pacing. She said, “Maybe one way you guys could do this—”

But this was interrupted by Jenny Machado, who predictably said, “This isn’t on the syllabus. Is this an extra assignment?”

Jenny, Rachel knew, had a defining and pretty complicated mission in all classes, which was to figure out how to do the least work possible while getting the most credit possible. This meant that she had to freak out as much as possible about every little change because her parents would be pissed if she got a B, but she would be pissed if she had to work any harder than she had been to get an A.

In this mission she had an ally, Dylan, who immediately perked up and asked, “Assignment or assessment points?” Dylan was the same as Jenny except lower on the food chain, he was just trying to make sure he got passing grades instead of failing.

“Well,” Ms. Rodale said, betraying only the mildest of annoyance in her voice, “I haven’t really thought about that quite yet. You can be sure that if I change the number of assignments or the grading system at all I’ll let you know in advance in writing as required by school regulation.”

Everyone else sighed or rolled their eyes or shifted in their seats because Jenny was being so annoying and because Ms. Rodale couldn’t say so for stupid teacher reasons.

At this point Rachel got on her phone for a few moments, but nothing much was happening there. Ms. Rodale was chill about phones, she just didn’t want the privilege abused.

Ms. Rodale said, “… what teachers call a ‘teachable moment.’ Of course all moments are teachable if used correctly, but this refers to unexpected opportunities, which I think this might be. How many of you are doing journals?”

Just less than half the class raised their hands. The assignment had been to either read books that address the nature of the self, and write about them; or to write personal journals, but they had to have some level of organization and writing skill, not just scribbles. And it had to be done daily. Most of the kids didn’t want to do anything daily, so they were reading The Illustrated Man by Ray Bradbury because it was short stories and that seemed easiest. Teachers were all under the impression that if they offered some choices, students would choose based on what novel was most fascinating and motivating, or most suited to their personal learning style, but obviously to Rachel, the students almost always chose whatever is easiest.

A group of popular girls was reading The Last Boy and Girl in the World by Siobhan Vivian because they had somehow figured out in the first five minutes when Ms. Rodale had first laid out the assignment that the rest of them were reading it. This may have started with Gina. Rachel wasn’t sure. In her view, Gina was Popular, with a capital P. The difference between Popular and popular wasn’t clear to Rachel. Something about it.

Some of the boys were reading Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman because it was about adventure and they were boys.

Rachel had chosen to keep a journal because she had never done that and thought it might be interesting, but was also privately reading the books, because she was always looking for a good book. Why, she wondered, was it considered so horrible an experience to read a book. Like, when did that happen?

Ms. Rodale said, “I’m not going to make this compulsory, but if some of you want to try it, I think it could be worthwhile. If you have been keeping a journal, you can swap with another student. And -- okay, if you haven’t, you can start now. Then you would write about what you learned from the experience. You would be walking a mile in someone else’s shoes, as they say. We can call it the Walk a Mile project.”

Immediately the opening line from Iggy Azalea’s Work shot through every student’s head, but Destiny was first to say out loud, “Walk a mile in these Louboutins,” and her impression was in Rachel’s opinion pretty good actually, and everybody laughed except Ms. Rodale. Rachel did, but she was also thinking, it would be weird to switch with her. There were many ways that Destiny and Rachel were different, but if she was being honest about it, then she had to admit it was about race. She worried that this meant that she, Rachel, was implying that she was having a superior life experience from Destiny’s, but all that she meant, she clarified to herself, was that it would be different.

“I am so not doing that,” Gina said, and immediately all the popular girls agreed.

Missy said, “That would be so … weird,” which was the worst curse word a popular girl could utter.

Andrea thought, fuck her, fuck all those popular girls. Aloud she said, “I’m down. I think it would be completely interesting.”

As soon as she had said it, Jerry and Tim and Maya said, “I’m down.” Maya looked back at Rachel. She thought, I am not at all sure I’m down, but said, “I’m down.”

 

 

 

 

Taco Trucks

 

It wasn’t fucking fair and Maya could tell that Andrea knew it. Obviously Rachel was into Jerry and in fact he had actually been flirting with her and running to class together or whatever the hell they had been doing, Maya had totally seen it, and then Jerry had just straight up sat down right next to Andrea, which okay was one of his seats but whatever, that didn’t mean that Andrea had to then go and basically crush Rachel’s little dreams.

Maya was over it. Like, Andrea was cool and her best friend supposedly and everything? But you don’t do that to a friend. Like, not to be rude, but it wasn’t like a million guys were into Rachel. When guys think that you’re the smart girl then basically it’s all kind of over, and in Maya’s opinion that was pathetic that the world worked like that, but it was also like Rachel wasn’t doing herself any favors with being kind of super geeky sometimes and with what she wore and she was still kind of in that awkward phase? But that shouldn’t even have mattered because she was so chill, basically everyone knew that, and if Andrea couldn’t keep herself off of him that was straight up bullshit.

Maya watched the whole class basically getting more and more pissed and trying to decide if she should say something to Rachel or to Andrea or what.

They were in the hall after the bell and Maya had stopped at her locker when Andrea just walked up to her.

“What up, byotch?” Andrea asked.

“Okay, don’t call me that?” Maya said.

“What?” Andrea squinted at Maya. “What’s your deal?”

“No deal.”

Andrea said, “Then—”

“Whatever,” Maya said, feeling a little weird being that mean. “Hang on a second, let me put this in.” She grabbed money out of her backpack and put it away in the locker. When they were in second grade, she and Andrea used to do monkey bars all the time, every day.

Andrea looked off into the distance for a minute even though there wasn’t anything to see and it wasn’t really actual distance anyway in a hallway which made her feel stupid, which then made her madder. She said, “Nobody’s doing anything for lunch, you want to hang?”
“Oh, well, if nobody else is available, then I guess I’m here,” Maya said, sort of slamming the locker shut.

“Okay, what the fuck?” Andrea demanded.

“Nothing, I’ll go to lunch, what do you want?”

“Taco truck,” Andrea said, as they started to walk.

“Taco trucks on every corner,” Maya said. It was a meme or something, she thought she remembered it from somewhere. Anyway for a little while it was a thing everyone said.

But then Andrea said, “Right? Taking over the country.”

And Maya was like, oh my God, she did not just say that, but it was like, how do you say that to a friend?

“What?” Andrea said. “Oh, my God, don’t look so fucking serious, I’m just joking.”

“It’s not that funny,” Maya said.

“I don’t hate Mexicans,” Andrea said.

Maya didn’t say anything for a few seconds and it got super awkward.

“I didn’t say you did,” Maya finally said.

“You’re pissed at me,” Andrea said.

Maya inhaled, exhaled, thought, and then said, “I mean, not pissed exactly?”

“Well, what already?”

They got to the taco truck and there was a line and it was super awkward to talk about it so they got their tacos and sat over in the tiny little park that was basically a bench and two trees that the city planted, and ate their food. Maya was trying to figure out how to start.

Andrea thought, I am not apologizing to her for drinking at the volleyball party, she can kiss my ass.

“It’s just,” Maya started. “Like, it’s not necessarily my business?”

“What, already?” Andrea asked, peeling open her taco from the aluminum foil they wrapped it in.

“It’s just,” Maya repeated, “Like, you know Rachel is kind of into Jerry, right?”

“Oh, my God, did she ask you to talk to me about that stupid journal assignment? I so don’t give a shit about that, you have no idea. I was just, basically, like, how can I get an easy A on this shit?”

“It’s not that,” Maya said, growing frustrated, mostly more with herself actually than with Andrea. “It’s just that you and Jerry were flirting? And not to be mean but Rachel isn’t exactly --”

“I know,” Andrea said, “But I wasn’t.”

“You kind of were, though?”

“Oh, my God,” Andrea said. “A guy and a girl can talk and it doesn’t mean they’re going to bone.”

“I know, but you weren’t. I mean, just talking. Like, you have to like do a better job, I think, of figuring out what signals you’re sending.”

Andrea had a big mouthful of disgusting taco that was making her sick. She chewed it down and drank about half of her Diet Coke to get rid of that taste and to think of what the fuck Maya was trying to say.

“Signals?” she asked.

“It’s not just Jerry,” Maya said. “Like, that guy Miles?”

“Oh, my God, you did not just go there. I’m not in control of whose name some guy remembers.”

“I’m not saying it’s your fault!” Maya said.

“Oh, aren’t you?”

“It’s totally his fault!” Maya said. “He just can’t keep --”

“It’s just what? I’m just this skank who probably does it with every guy at school? Isn’t that kind of your department?”

There was a long minute of silence.

“Whatever,” Maya said.

“No, you can’t just say that,” Andrea said. “No, no way. You can’t just say whatever when --”
“That was different, okay?” Maya felt herself nearly shouting. “I actually like him!” Suddenly she was crying, completely surprising herself.

“I didn’t say—”

“You don’t have to say anything!” Maya said.

“I’m not --” Andrea began, and then stopped herself. She took another big bite of the taco, chewed hard, then remembered how gross it was and had to drown it in Diet Coke again.

She said, “You’re still pissed because he said my name at the mall or whatever?”
“Oh, my God, no! God, don’t you get it?” Maya said, but all of a sudden she didn’t get it herself. Like, it kind of was about Miles not even knowing who Maya was if she was being honest? And she totally would never have a chance with him, she knew that, but he actually obviously was into Andrea and if she was being totally honest, that really, really hurt.

“I don’t know what I get,” Andrea said. “Like, basically everything I do you think is wrong. A guy --”

“No, I didn’t say --”

“Just let me finish, okay? A guy talks to me at the mall and you’re pissed at me. Then a guy makes out with you, you’re the one who was doing that, not me, you, and you get pissed at me for talking about it wrong. Then, today, I fucking talk to Jerry, I didn’t, like, reach down his pants or anything and you make it like my fault if I’m just being normal!”

“I’m not saying—”

“I’m sorry if Rachel doesn’t know how to talk to a boy, but that’s not my fault and I’m so sick of you judging me!”

“Really? Really?”

“What?” Andrea demanded.

“I’m judging you? Like none of that happened? Like you don’t know Jerry -- just tell me this, did you or did you not know that Rachel is into Jerry.”

“Well, yeah, but --”

“And did you or did you not see them walk across the quad like whatever before class today, like something was going on?”

“What is this, am in court or something, are you my lawyer?”

“I’m not your lawyer.”

“Yeah, you’re the judge.”

“You didn’t even answer the question.”

Andrea didn’t say anything.

“So whatever,” Maya said. “I can’t make you be --”

“I’m not put on Earth to answer your questions,” Andrea said.

“No, I guess you’re not.”

There was a long silence, then they both threw their trash in the can and avoided eye contact.

“Cool,” Andrea said, starting to head back.

“Cool,” Maya agreed.

 

 

 

 

Sandra

 

It is not easy for me to write assignments properly in English because for me it is a second language. In Korea we don’t write journals. In the United States writing journals is done by students for classes of English for example Ms. Rodale has us writing journals. It is a way to write down what a person think.

In this journal I am writing about the students in Kennedy High School. That is the name of the High School that I am attending. I am a student on a year abroad program for enrichment and academic advancement.

It is very different in United States schools than in Korea schools, one of the ways that it is difference is that in Korea making boyfriends is not easy. In Korea many peoples have friends, but girls do not have boyfriends so much in schools.

In United States schools girls very much talk about boys, this is the same as in Korea schools. In United States schools, however, girls also talk about having physical relationship with boys that is not permitted in Korea at such a young age.

In United States girls talk very fast and also make small groups. In small groups mostly go girls who are popular and are friends. It is very difficult for a girl who is not from United States to go in group that is for girls that have small groups.

In United States Kennedy High School I have not many friends. This is making me sad and sometimes homesick but it is the purpose of year abroad program to try to make new friends. I have been going to party once and sometime at lunch also spend time with friends. However, many time girls are not noticing that they are talking too rapidly for me. This is making it more difficult for me to have conversations with them.

The names of girls in a group is Andrea, Maya, Rachel, Sabrina. These are girls that are trying to be nice a little bit to girls from other country but do not remember to slow down from speaking rapidly. Also, I know two girls that are called Karen and Naeli. They are also friends but they do not talk much. We enjoy to spend time together.

In small group with girls are also boys that are friends with girls. There names are Jerry, Tim, Mike, Cole, Malik. This is an African-American name, African-Americans are very unusual in Korea. Also is Naeli African-American. It is also unusual in Korea that boys and girls go to parties and dance with no adult in the house and sometime they do more things that are usually private thing that married people do. This is not right but it is not okay to say things like that about other cultures when you are a visitor in there country, a person should not judge another person culture.

I would like to be more friends with the girls whose names are Andrea, Maya, Rachel, Sabrina. However, they are oftenmost talking to each other and to boys that are in there group. This is not easy to join this group because they speak rapidly and because they believe that they are very important and that other people are not so important as them. I think that in world many peoples think that they are the most important but it is not so comfortable for people that are not in the group to be allowed in the group.

These girls talk about many things: fashion, clothing, dating, and schoolwork. This to me can be very fun because I like fashion and I would enjoy to speak with them more about fashion and to go shopping. Many times girls go shopping but they do not invite someone who does not speak rapidly and this is unfortunate for me.

The girls do not try very hard in schoolwork, this is surprising. In Korea everybody try very hard to succeed, in United States girls and boys do not seem to be trying to succeed, it is very important to study to succeed in having a career and a family. There is one girl that her name is Rachel and she is having success, but she does not speak to me about it so I am not sure if she is working hard for her success. The other girls say that she is very smart, but she seems to me sometimes foolish because she wishes to talk to boys about certain things but does not do this, even though in United States it is considered okay to do this.

Andrea is a girl who talks to boys all of the time. In Korea a name for this kind of girl is not very nice. Many times a bad thing can happen to a girl who does these things. Another girl is called Sabrina and she is very sad and not as much happy as the other girls. I think that she has been sad for very many years but this is not what she is saying to me. She does not speak to me very much. The girl whose name is Maya speaks to me sometimes. She has been with a boy at a beach party. Many people saw them doing things that are private. Year abroad program is an academic and cultural enrichment experience and I don’t have the job to say if the private things that Maya does is right or wrong, that is the job for her parents.

I do not want the teacher to read this journal to the other students. I do not want to trade this journals with another student. It is very hard for me to be myself in United States, to be another person it would be impossible!

 

 

 

 

Sabrina

 

People don’t know. You can be having the worst day and you can feel like completely hollow inside or like you’re going to throw up because your heart is racing a million miles an hour, and people still might not know.

Sometimes I’ll be sitting in class and feel like I can’t move. Like literally I can’t get up. I don’t even know why. But I’ll be sitting there, so nervous that I’ll do something wrong or say something wrong that I just freeze. I don’t even know where my brain goes. I’ll just sit there and my heart will be pounding and I’ll be wishing I could die or somehow get out of it but I can’t. Sometimes if I have to, like if the bell rings, I’ll get up and walk out and everything, but I’m still panicking.

Everything I do is fake. I’m pretending. I hang out with friends but I don’t really feel like it’s really me. At home I like sit through dinner and I’ll say stuff but it’s not really me and I can’t wait to just go to my room, although I hate being in there alone. I’ll pretend to myself that I like looking at stupid memes and videos all night long, but I don’t. Not really. Everything about me is fake.

Well, not everything. I mean, I do like my friends, and sometimes I have fun like a normal person. I just wish … anyway.

It was such a stupid idea. It wasn’t my idea anyway. I’m not even sure whose idea it was. These guys invited us over for a party. They’re 10th graders, and I’m not stupid, I know not to go alone, but I still should have known. I shouldn’t have even thought -- I mean, I should have thought.

God. I have the worst headache.

But I told myself that I’m not just going to sit here and be a sad little victim, so I decided to write down in this stupid journal what happened and I hope no one ever reads it, including me. Especially not me. I wish more than anything that I’ll get better and never have to read or write this stuff again.

Wishing is pointless. I know that. But. Guess I’ll try.

I guess the way it started is that, they’re these sophomores and some juniors and they’re always hanging around together, and they’re all really cute. I know they also sometimes hang around with Eric C. and some of the football guys and he’s really nice, too, so I thought it could be a lot of fun, depending on who else was there. The way I found out was from Rachel, who said that Maya and Andrea had both separately invited her. I wasn’t exactly sure about all of us being together because Maya and Andrea have been fighting and it gets super awkward. I hate it when they fight. They had this huge blowout at the mall and I hated it and was trying to figure out some way that I could just leave but it would have been super awkward and if there is anything I hate more than people making a huge deal about themselves it’s people making a huge deal about me. If I had just said, I can’t handle this, I’m leaving, like I wanted to, nobody would have left me alone. They would have chased me down and asked me a million questions and I didn’t want to answer them.

I asked Rachel if it wasn’t weird that we hardly know those guys and she said yeah but isn’t that the point of going to a party? And I thought, I don’t really know what the point of going to a party is. I mean, when you’re a shy person you don’t think, oh, let’s all go hang out together in a small place.

Like, ideally? If I could get over how I feel? Well, obviously I would want to date one of those guys, but not Miles Turgeon. He’s very good looking but you can tell he’s trouble. He doesn’t seem nice. He’s the kind of person who would make fun of you when you’re having a panic attack. He’s exactly that guy, in my opinion.

Eric is the opposite, at least that’s what he seems like to me.

When I went out with Seth at the end of 8th it was actually really sweet and I wasn’t really my usual self, like I thought I would be totally freaked out by being with a boy, but I wasn’t. Like, it’s gross kissing someone if you think about saliva and everything, but at least that seems to me like normal person problems. When I was with Seth I didn’t feel like I had Usual Me problems, and that was really, really cool. He was really sweet. He took me to a movie and his mom didn’t chaperone but she picked me up at my house and later dropped me off and she was just chill. And he was just really sweet. He paid for pizza and was really good at making conversation, which I was totally worried I would have to manage somehow. The movie was “The Fault In Our Stars” and I was totally crying, which was embarrassing but it’s so sad, and I looked over and Seth was crying too and he looked over at me and he was totally nice, he just smiled and I smiled too, and he just calmly took my hand and we held hands and it was really nice, that was all through the rest of the movie. Our hands got kind of sweaty and stuck in the same place but I wouldn’t have moved mine for a million dollars. Then when the credits were going he just leaned over and looked at me and I didn’t feel panic, I felt good, and he kissed me and it was like a pretty bad first kiss, I guess. I didn’t really know what to do and there was popcorn residue, if that’s not too much information. In the movies the girls are all experts at kissing and the boys are all failures, but I don’t know how the girls all become such experts. Anyway with us we both figured it out together. I think that I loved him.

Then, of course, he moved. He lives in Toronto. Everything that I like goes away, it feels like, if that’s not too dramatic. In the beginning we texted constantly and we said we would stick together no matter what but it just isn’t realistic and I just know he’s probably kissing some Canadian girl and you know what? I hope he’s happy and she’s awesome, because he deserves it.

But me? What do I deserve? I don’t know.

Anyway, I just said to Rachel that I would go to the party if there were people I knew and she got the idea to invite Ben and Jerry. That made sense at the time, because we’re always hanging around with them in the Q Squad and everything, and they’re kind of safe feeling. If things got too sketch it felt to me like Tim would do something about it. Jerry is totally fun and a friend but it feels like Tim is the guy who would actually step up and take care of a problem if he had to.

Me and Rachel went over to Maya’s to get ready. My first mistake was that I smoked kind of a lot because I knew that I wasn’t going to be able to at Maya’s because she’s against it and I’m not sure about Rachel, but also because I knew that I would be super nervous and THC does calm my anxiety. Although sometimes it makes it worse if I smoke too much and that’s the worst. I wasn’t quite in that mode but I was feeling kind of both stoned and edgy and then also paranoid because I thought that Maya would know and be mad, and then I stupidly realized that if those guys were inviting us to a party then there would be smoke there anyway, but then again I didn’t want Maya to see me smoking. I didn’t want anyone to see me smoking.

But we were hanging out in her room and in the bathroom, doing our makeup and stuff and I was stoned but managing, and I had my long sleeve knit sweater and my distressed shorts and high tops and I thought I looked like a hag but they kept saying I looked cute, but of course they have to say that, that’s what friends say to each other.

Honestly I don’t know what Seth was thinking even going out with me because I’m obviously way too thin and if people knew why they would be so grossed out that I don’t even want to talk about it right now. But the problem was that Maya was all, “You should try it without the sweater,” and kind of pulled on it, and it slid up one wrist, but she didn’t see anything, but I’m pretty sure that Rachel did. You could see her staring for a long second at my arms where the scars are from two weeks ago and also last week two more. And she’s so smart there’s no way she didn’t figure it out, but she just looked away into the mirror and put on eyeliner and I couldn’t tell if that was to help me but I was really grateful.

People say it’s a cry for attention. Oh my God, no. The last thing I want on Earth is attention. At least, for that. If people said, oh, you’re a good dancer, that would be cool, and sometimes they do, and it’s kind of hard to know what to say, but I guess I like hearing it. But if they gave me attention for … all of that stuff? No way.

Anyways Maya’s brother gave us a ride. He’s like 24 or something which is a little bit weird but he’s nice and he kept saying, “Be safe,” and stuff like that, and he wanted to come in to meet the guys but Maya was like, no way.

I went in last because I hate going first and right away it felt super awkward. It was just us three and I hadn’t been invited, but Neil whose house it was was somewhere like upstairs and Miles and Eli were playing video games in the living room and we three didn’t know exactly what to do because they wouldn’t stop playing so we just kind of stood there or leaned on the couches, not sure if we should sit. And there were beers and I looked at Maya and she kind of shrugged like, if you have to, which I did mostly to have something to hold and do, and Rachel did the same and Maya just looked confused.

Then Miles said to us, without even looking at us, “Is your other friend coming? What’s her name? The hot one?”

And we were like, oh my God he did not just say that, and Maya looked like she was going to die right then and there, but thank God a bunch of other people got there right then. It got a little confusing because someone turned on loud music and Neil showed up with this really big bong from wherever he had been and Eric did show up with two of his friends I didn’t know, Pete and Ramon, and then Andrea showed up with Ben and Jerry. I don’t know if she was in the same car with them, but they showed up together which was a little weird but now it was super awkward even though Maya kind of hesitated but then gave Andrea what I thought was a real hug. I mean, all of this boy drama is so unnecessary sometimes. They’re both really nice girls, most of the time, and I wish they could just be friends and not weird just because Miles is more into Andrea than Maya. I mean, isn’t everyone?

Miles immediately said, “Hey, Andrea,” and she said, “Aren’t you that guy from the mall?” in this really casual voice like she didn’t know or care, but you could tell she had practiced that line, which isn’t that special a line but whatever.

But he kind of slapped the couch next to him and she just went and sat there like she was his dog or something. I swear to God.

Maya looked like, sick with all of this. First of all she hates drugs, second of all she has the world’s hugest crush on Miles and he was obviously ignoring her for Andrea.

I didn’t know what to do so I was just talking to Rachel about the Academy she goes to or whatever it’s called. I wasn’t really listening, though. She explained what it’s about but I kept thinking that Eric was somewhere in the house, but where? and in my head counting and realizing that we had eight guys and four girls.

Eli came over to talk to Maya. I think they used to go out but a way long time ago? It didn’t seem weird, though. It kind of felt like he was rescuing her from the awkward situation and I was like, well, that’s nice. But I was also still pretty high and the beer wasn’t bringing me down or anything, so I was a confusing mix of anxious like I get in crowds but also too mellowed out by the weed and the beer.

Time passed kind of without me noticing it and a bunch of other people arrived. Some of them were way older and I have no idea who they were and I was thinking, this is getting sketchy, and I looked at Rachel but she was talking to Jerry and she looked happy and pretty much normal for once so I let it go. I was in a corner with those guys Ramon and Pete and we were just kind of trying to figure out something to talk about. School and teachers and movies and YouTube and stuff like that, I guess. I suppose Pete was attractive and I suppose the point or at least one of the points of going to a party like that is that you’re looking for a cute guy, but I was not that into him. He was boring and he kept laughing for no reason, and Ramon would crack up, too. They were high, but I think even not high they just are like that.

People weren’t exactly dancing, but kind of moving up and down, sort of trying to decide if they were dancing or not. I was sort of because I almost can’t after eight years of dance classes just stand there.

But then I saw that Miles was sort of talking but also kind of leaning over Andrea. She was backed up against a bookcase kind of thing and he’s way taller. I mean, if they were talking and everything how is that my business? But they weren’t exactly. Like, Andrea wasn’t smiling, she wasn’t saying anything. She kind of looked -- I don’t know. She looked like she was two things: into him and not into this.

Like sometimes she did laugh, way too hard, but she also kept kind of sending glances to Rachel and me and I wasn’t sure what kind they were, like, he’s so hot, or, save me.

And I’m the last person who is going to save anyone, believe me. I was also pretty wasted, I guess. Rachel looked like she wanted to go over there and check or something, but she and Jerry were starting up Cards Against Humanity and kind of trying to recruit other people and I was thinking, God please no, because that game will embarrass you so hard. This one time I ended up with a match of “Maybe she’s born with it, maybe it’s…” matched with “An ether-soaked rag,” and I was so embarrassed, and that was just playing with the girls, oh my God I did not want to get into that situation again. These two girls I hadn’t even seen before plus Korean Sandra who had shown up out of nowhere were starting to play with them so I felt like, well, never mind, I guess I’ll just hang with Ramon and … and … no matter how hard I tried I just could not remember the other guy’s name, and I started to get anxious.

Honestly this happens all the time. I’ll be in class and there will be some ridiculously easy question but if the teacher thinks I know, which I even do, she’ll call on me, like she’s trying to be nice by not calling on me unless I know, and then I freeze, God I hate that, and I can’t even say that I think the main character in The Catcher in the Rye is too self-centered, even though I read the whole book and already wrote an essay on it. And it doesn’t help my freezingness to be that stoned.

But then there was a sudden blur of motion, and I turned my head. At this point you couldn’t see Andrea really, her face was hidden by her hair, but Miles looked like he had his arms on her, or around her. They were kind of in a dark corner and you couldn’t hear anything over the music but I thought I had heard her say “No, thank you already” and I thought she meant she didn’t want any more beer or something but all of a sudden there was this blur and it turned out to be Tim and he like grabbed Miles from behind, like clenched his shoulder and turned him.

I couldn’t hear but he said something and Miles looked pissed and Andrea kind of straightened out her top so maybe something sexual had been happening, I honestly didn’t know, but then Neil and Eli were suddenly on the scene and Miles started shoving Tim and the other guys did, too, and I looked over at Jerry but he was kind of frozen and someone turned off the music, thank God.

And then really quickly Eric and Ramon and the other guy I’d been talking to came over, I think just trying to make peace, but now you could hear Andrea sobbing and I thought about how I could help and what I was supposed to do and how I was always feeling that way and just stuck and feeling horrible, and suddenly Tim just punched Miles really hard in the face.

Miles kind of fell backward but not over, like into his friends, and when he got back up he tackled Tim and Tim’s head hit the floor of the house, you could kind of hear a crack, and then it was hard to hear anything else, because there was this intense high shrieking, really insanely loud, which of course was me, and everyone was staring at me, like even Tim kind of looked at me like I was being the weird one, not him for being on the floor in a fight.

And I was crying so hard, unexpectedly, and shrieking, and my hands were both over my head and I couldn’t think, I didn’t know how to stop for like forever, it seemed like. And these people showed up, adults, I don’t even know, maybe the parents, I honestly don’t know.

But Maya and Rachel went and got Andrea and I was all alone but then Jerry came over and put a hand on my elbow, he was being super nice but I didn’t say anything to him, I still haven’t, but I think he led me outside and kind of stayed near me while I kept screaming for a while and then I puked in the curb and he saw me which is pretty much my worst nightmare, and other people were coming out too and seeing me and I thought that if I killed myself, I wouldn’t have to live through this and honestly that was the only thing that made me feel better.

So. Good times.

 

 

 

 

Andrea

 

Okay, what the fuck, how is Sabrina hotter than me???? I’m just joking, I read that in Jerry’s journal, he actually says that, and I think it’s fucking hilarious reading somebody else’s journal, especially a guy’s.

So me and Jerry read each other’s journals, which is like, hilarious to me. I’m going to be partners with Rach, which is dope, but I haven’t read her shit yet. This whole thing anyway got started because me and Jerry were reading each other’s, basically it was this truth or dare thing in class and FYI I always choose dare, losers choose truth and they always lie anyway or no one cares, they tell you that they like someone that everyone already knows they like, who cares?

But anyway me and Jerry were cracking up and people were kind of giving us attitude but fuck them, me and Jerry are cool, and If people want to think whatever they want to think about that then I don’t even care. I mean, It’s a journal, God, what is the big deal?

I mean, it’s totally funny, though. We traded for a day, it was like this personalized homework or whatever, and usually I would of course either not do it if it was actual homework or do it at the last minute, but this time I read the whole thing in about two minutes, I’m not even kidding, and then reread certain parts. Because his journal was all, and I even copied down what he said; everyone thinks that Andrea is hot and she is, of course, like from a neutral point of view, but personally I think that Sabrina is hotter.

I mean, whatever. I guess beauty is in the eye of the bolder and all of that, but it’s kind of weird when he says, everyone thinks that Andrea is hot and she is, because honestly of course you if you’re anybody kind of want people to say stuff like that about you? But then when they do, it’s so awkward.

And then I was like, shit, what did I say in mine and is he reading that right now, and who else knows, and what exactly did I say?

Because I think that I might have said some stuff about Latrell and Malik and those black, I mean African-American guys? And I wouldn’t want anyone to get the wrong idea, like I like all people and everything, but excuse me if I think certain types of people are hotter for me, for me personally. I don’t see how that’s my fault or how I’m a racist. Like honestly I don’t remember what I wrote about, I wrote most of it on my phone like in the bathroom haha, journals are like the weakest assignment ever, you don’t have to do anything.

But what’s weird? The rest of Jerry’s journal is kind of majorly boring, okay that’s not so weird, but it’s so much about him being fat??? Like, why? He’s soooo obsessive about it, it’s like, okay, girls are obsessive about it all the time, but he’s just a guy, he should chill about it, and anyway he’s not even fat at all. He’s such a freak. Also he is into something called RC cars, which is fucking hilarious because literally his entire journal is about them and it’s like, what the fuck is an RC car? Also …. whoooooo .. carrrrrres???? Omg I almost died I was reading about him and his stupid cars that his dad and him drive. Guys are so lame.

I guess the idea for this stupid Other People’s Shoes project is that people have to go pretend all day to be someone else which I actually think is kind of twisted but also sick, because it’s like the ultimate dare, kind of. I’m going to be Rachel, which is probably going to be snooze-o-rama, no offense, girl.

But I was thinking, wouldn’t it be kind of great, kind of crazy and weird, but kind of great, if I had to switch not journals but like lives with Jerry? How sick would that be?

I mean, time out, would I have to go live with his dad, while Jerry was at my house? I don’t think so, people. Not gonna happen. What up, Ms. Rodale, no way would I doing that. I would def pretend to be him at school, though, I think that would be effing hilarious. First of all I’d get a blond curly wig and I’d wear a skate shirt and cargo shorts and Vans and carry a skateboard everywhere I go. Then I’d hang out with Tim and pick zits.

Who I feel sorry for? Rachel. Because Jerry just said in his journal what everybody else says about her, that she’s a total brain and really nice, which you bet your ass she is, she’s my girl, but also he said that she’s not that hot, and that she has and I quote, no tits.

And you, like, think guys think about stuff like that and whatever but you’re not sure, maybe it’s just in bad movies? But totally he dissed her body major and that sucks for her.

All right, well, I guess I have to also talk about the thing. People want me to say something about what happened at the party. Like, everybody wants to know. My mom found out somehow, do not ask me how, and she wants to talk to Neil’s parents and Miles’s’ parents and I had to like beg, like plead with her for about nineteen hours to just let it go because nothing happened, okay? Like, Tim and Miles got in a fight, period, and I did not ask either one of them to fight over me or whatever, and besides that I didn’t do anything wrong. Like literally every person at school has asked me what happened and first of all I don’t actually completely remember because I was kind of on some stuff, not important what, and second of all he didn’t do anything to me. Like, yeah, he was being uncool, like extremely, but I can handle it, okay? I hate how everyone is treating it like I’m this victim that can’t speak up for herself, because fuck that. But everyone is like, oh, was he behaving inappropriately? And it’s like, well, how am I supposed to know what is their opinion of appropriate or not? I’m saying, it’s not always that obvious, in case you didn’t notice. Like sometimes when you see in the old movies from the like 90s or whatever the guy will just grab the girl and like suddenly kiss her and she’ll be all into it and the movie ends happy or whatever. Like don’t tell me that if you’re a girl you don’t sometimes want the guy to make a, like, move. To, like, grab you with passion, like not necessarily every time, but admit it.

And it’s not like Miles is so gross, every girl in that school would do him, still, right now, don’t tell me they wouldn’t, and I did go sit with him at the party so that part is on me I guess. It’s kind of my fault?

I mean he was kind of being too much, okay, obviously, but that doesn’t mean he attacked me. I just kind of hate how everyone has to have an opinion instead of just dealing with the fact that it was something between me and him and I should get to decide about it and not have my mom talk to anyone about it. God!

 

 

 

 

Sabrina

 

I stayed home for four days until my mom noticed and made me go. I tried not to think about anything all that time, but I kept thinking about things anyway. I kept seeing myself stuck at the party and wishing I could have done something, anything, I don’t know what, like walked out, or said something. Anything but freak out. And I tried even harder not to think about puking in the street. After that I don’t actually remember much of what happened so I wasn’t trying to forget that.

I thought about ending it all a few times. My mom has Xanax and I’m pretty sure if I took about ten of those I’d never wake up. This one night when she was out I went and looked in her medicine cabinet and they were sitting there and I took them down and laid them out. There were 21 of them and I laid them out in three rows of seven on the counter. They’re kind of pretty. She has 2 mg. bars and they have the word Xanax written across them, each one exactly the same, there must be a machine somewhere that carves the word in there and I thought how weird it was that people had evolved to the point where they could perfectly put a word on a happy pill that could kill you, and I also thought wouldn’t it be interesting if that was the last word you ever read.

Then I put them back.

I kept checking Instagram obsessively but I wasn’t liking anything or posting anything so basically I was just stalking other people’s lives. There were a lot of memes and Pokemon Go jokes, none of which were at all funny, and videos of guys playing football or skating and girls in their new bikinis, look everybody this is my hot new body. I stalked Seth but honestly that just made me feel worse because if he had stayed maybe I wouldn’t have ended up like this.

At first people did hit me up to kind of check in and I guess I appreciated it but I didn’t know what to say. What do you say to “r u ok” exactly when you feel the next morning like you’ve been run over by a truck and your clothes still smell like puke even though you washed everything, and your room smells of too much weed?

So I said to Rachel “All good just sick” and to Maya “sick chillin at home” and to Jerry who was sweet to bother I said, “sorry dont worry not your fault i was just sick” and to Tim who actually wrote a pretty long text I wrote back a longish text just saying “It was just a hard night kind of and thx for checking hope to see u at school.”

Then finally my mom was like, you’re not that sick, and I said that I was, and actually I think I was, just generic sick, but she didn’t care she made me go. I don’t think she knows how much I hate her sometimes. I mean she’s my mom and I love her and everything, but I really wish sometimes that I never had to hear her voice again. Like literally if she just lived there and wrote me texts that would be so much better because I can’t stand her voice, it makes my skin crawl. I don’t even know why.

But I went.

Something weird had gone down in English so by first period I was already way distracted. I wore just leggings and a sweater because I didn’t feel like being all out there, and I think also I’ve been wearing too much makeup, but when I wore less no one seemed to notice. Honestly nobody seemed to notice that much that I was back. Maya said, “Hey, what’s up?” And I guess she wanted to say more but Jerry distracted her. Andrea said, “Thought you were dead,” as a joke but it wasn’t funny. The announcements were finishing up and we were supposed to be getting quiet so Rachel kind of whispered what had been going on, which was not much. Eric is going out with Talia and I know I’m supposed to care but honestly I was just trying to get through a day at school -- you have no idea how hard that is sometimes, just to sit there and not get up and run out.

Ms. Rodale started checking in on something called the Walk a Mile program, or assignment or something. I had totally forgotten about this and I didn’t even remember to check the class site when I was out, I mean I remembered but I didn’t do it, and this assignment was some kind of big deal and everybody had partners except me. Maya was partners with Jerry and Rachel and Andrea were partners and Karen and Naeli were obviously partners and if you were doing a journal you had to have a partner. Tim texted “wanna be parters” and at first I thought he wrote “wanna be partiers” and was making fun of me and I felt almost sick to my stomach but then I thought no he’s not like that, so I looked back and he was sitting in the back corner alone and I then I got it that it was partners so I said “ok” even though I didn’t have a clue what it was about but at least somebody wanted to talk to me, or whatever it was about.

 

 

 

Tim

 

People were all giving me shit, I guess they were all thinking that I think I’m such a hero but I don’t , I was just -- and also, people were saying that I did it because I wanted to impress Andrea but that’s so -- I mean, obviously, I do, I never said I didn’t like her. okay? There, if anyone wants to know or whatever, I do like her, I’m sorry, and maybe I was watching a little more closely when that douchebag Miles was assaulting her, but that’s not why I hit him.

My dad taught me, way back when, to respect women. I guess if I had to say the truth, he didn’t really teach me a lot more than that before he left, he lives in the Philippines, but he did teach me that. Like, how sick is that fucker Miles to force Andrea -- in front of everyone! -- to, like, I don’t know what.

That’s what I said to him! I said, “What are you doing with her?” That’s just a question, right? If he had said, “I’m talking to her,” and she had said, “Yeah, it’s cool,” that would have been different. okay? I did not go into it thinking that I would hit him, people totally don’t understand that. I didn’t go over from where I was standing just so that -- I’m overexplaining it, sorry, I know. Sorry.

Anyways, my dad said that if you harm a woman you’re the worst kind of scum, which is true, and that’s what Miles was doing. Now he’s denying it and people are saying stuff about me, that I went over there to start something, which totally isn’t true, but you know what? If nobody believes me I don’t even care. I know what happened and my conscience is clear.

Andrea basically has ignored me the whole time since then which is like, nothing new, but I kind of expected something different? I guess?

I mean, I’m not saying I did it for thanks, but it’s kind of rude to not even say anything. Also? I do like her but if she doesn’t like me I respect that, so if she wants to ignore me about it because she thinks that I’m too, whatever, gross and zitty or whatever she thinks, or maybe too aggro, I’m not even disagreeing with her, it’s her right to think whatever she thinks, I’m just -- I’m repeating myself. It’s pathetic how much I do that.

Also, I’m kind of pissed at Jerry because he said that the party was going to be at Andrea’s and that’s fine, I get it that he says that she told him that and that later it turned out it was at douchebag’s house or whoever’s house that was, but also? How the fuck does Jerry not have my back? I mean, I didn’t warn him I was gonna go have some words with that asshole, but obviously when your homie gets into it with someone, you get your fat ass off the couch and stop playing Cards Against Humanity with a fucking Korean chick who can’t even read English good, she told me that herself! I swear to you.

I mean, he’s my best friend and we’re still chill but it sucks that he didn’t have my back. I’m not saying he should have fucked anyone up, but just, like, be there, you know? Show up. Dude, I would for you. I told him that.

We talked about it the next day, I straight up said that to him, like show up, and he was all, “You didn’t have to go hitting the guy,” and I was all, “What the fuck are you talking about, he was attacking her,” and he was all, “I didn’t see it to be honest, but I’m not doubting you about that,” and I was all, “Yeah you are, you’re totally doubting me,” and he was all, “No, I believe you that he was coming on too strong or whatever,” and I was like, “Coming on too strong? He was fucking about to rape her,” and Jerry was like, “Come on, not in front of everybody,” and I was all, “Okay, like not full on that, but he was definitely about to do something.”

And then Jerry was all, this was just the two of us sitting on that planter by wood shop, the bell had already rung but it was like we both knew we had to have it out, and Jerry was all, “Okay, but even if he was, you could have maybe talked about it instead of hitting him,” and I was all, “What the fuck, I did talk to him, he was a fucking asshole about it, and then he grabbed her again, and she was definitely not into it,” and Jerry was all, “you don’t know that,” and I was all, “How do I not know that, everybody knows that,” and he was all, “Everybody? Not exactly, Tim,” and I was all, “What does that mean?” and he just goes, “People are saying she was sort of into him?”

And I was fucking pissed, but I just go, “Yeah, maybe, I don’t even know, but that doesn’t give him the right to assault her,” and Jerry was all, “You’re my friend and everything, but honestly if anyone was doing any assaulting, wasn’t it kind of you?” And I was kind of getting seriously pissed but I had to tell myself to chill, this is Jerry and everything, so I was like, “okay, maybe I should have waited, or whatever, or maybe not hit him like that hard -- I didn’t think he’d fall over and then go attacking me,” and Jerry kind of laughed like, “Right?” and then I was going to say to him that he should have had my back, but he flat out said it, he said exactly that!

He goes, “I should have had your back, what a weird night,” and something about the way he said it was like, well, damn, I was going to say that, but now he said it, but it doesn’t seem like a big deal when he says it like that, and then I started wondering if I was overthinking it, and I was about to think about that, and then, you won’t even believe this, but these two girls who were also ditching, one I think her name is Melanie, and the other was Maria Esquivel! So weird, walk by, and so I told Jerry about Maria kind of squishing her tits into me and he was like, “seriously?” and I was like, “I don’t know, she just was kind of pushing them onto me like I’m this shelf for tits or something” and he laughed.

But then he said that that meant that she was into me and I was like, “No, it doesn’t, it’s just,” and he was all, “Just what? Who pushes her tits onto somebody just to be casual about it?” And I was thinking, wait, no way, but then he said, “Anyway, that other one, Melanie?” and they were walking away from us and Melanie did have these really nice short shorts, made like jeans but with rips in them, whatever that’s called, and Jerry was like, “I’d like to take a bite out of her ass,” and we both laughed like really hard, this like embarrassed but also sort of healing laugh like all was chill now. Except that I didn’t want to say so, but that was kind of a harsh thing for Jerry to say and I was glad nobody heard me laughing about it. But also, to be honest I totally know what he meant, but that’s just weird, it’s like, that’s her butt.

Anyway we hustled back to class and I guess I can’t stay mad at him, it’s Jerry, but I still think he should have had my back and now if there’s going to be consequences from the school which is what somebody said, you can bet that Jerry won’t be getting any. And if that asshole Miles Turgeon wants to find me with his homies he can fucking try, I have a knife I’m not going to say where, and I’m not about to use it just for whatever, but I will defend myself if I have to. Is all I’m saying.

Also? I guess I’m partners with Sabrina on some project. I wasn’t listening when it was explained, I hate English, but you could tell that she was sad from people seeing her puke and her freaking out a little bit and everything, plus I straight up texted Jerry do you want to be partners and said it, too, from across the room, but he pretended not to see me and all of a sudden he was like laughing all fake hard with Andrea, that was the fakest thing ever, obviously he doesn’t think she’s funny, he just wants to fuck her, who wouldn’t, but he totally ignored me and I think he’s partners with her or Maya or one of the girls.

So I was like fuck it, Sabrina has never been uncool to me and it’s just this project, or whatever, but she looks so sad.

 

But then, get this? I have math next, which is really hard. I hate that I have to go to my locker in between, but if I didn’t then I would have to carry my heavy ass backpack all day and it was getting heavy but then I thought about it and all’s I really needed in math was basically a pencil and the book and even if I forgot those, I could always borrow a pencil from some girl. In fact that’s tbh a good strat for talking to girls, like a way to break the ice, actually no, that’s so stupid, God, what was a stupid strat, that’s completely fucking stupid, like, what girl would say to herself, oh, I’m not that into that ugly Tim guy, except that he asked me for my pencil and it was so

“What’s your fucking problem?”

I was like, “Wha—?” looking up, but keeping my back to my locker in case of shit.

Well, fuck. It was Miles Turgeon, the guy from the party who was hitting on Andrea, with his asshole friends Neil Emerson and Eli Malloy. Fuck those guys. Three sophomores, all bigger than me. One of them I had basically punched in the face, so it was kind of what you might call a tense encounter.

Actually my first thought was how weirdly this situation was just like in some bad teen movie and now either they were going to like, throw me in a trash can or opposite, this was the point where I was supposed to flash ninja skills and take all three of them down.

That thought took only an instant, and then I heard myself shout out, “What’s your fucking problem?” which wasn’t too very clever, since it was exactly what Miles had said, but it was basically what I wanted to know.

“You think I don’t know where you live?” Miles said, getting closer to me. Eli and Neil looked around, scanning for security. Miles was about an inch taller than me but bigger all around.

At that point I remembered the knife that I was keeping in its leather sheath under two bandanas at the bottom of the locker.

I know you can’t back down in that situation or you’re fucked, so I said to Miles, “You got something to say to me, say it right here, asshole.”

“Fuck you,” Miles said and basically just shoved me in the chest.

I kept my footing because I know about balance and basically I just stared right back at Miles. I guess I had pretty much been expecting to be shoved at some point, but my back had hit something like maybe a locker and it hurt like a motherfucker.

But then these two guys, seniors probably, came along, talking about the new iOS and how much it sucked. One of them surveyed the situation and said, “What the fuck are you assholes doing?”

Miles looked around at the emptying hallway. Class was obviously starting soon.

“Nothing,” Miles said.

“Pussies,” the senior said. “What, three on one? Seriously?”

Eli looked around and then plucked Miles on the shoulder. “Let’s bounce,” he said. Neil nodded.

So I was all, see ya.

 

 

 

 

Friday Night

 

“What are we gonna do?” Sabrina asked.

“There’s nothing to do,” Maya said. Friday night and the three of them were all just sitting in Maya’s room again. Now that football season was over and Certain People Who Could Make a Party Fun weren’t around anymore, Maya had to admit that some of the time she missed Certain People, even if Certain People were always talking to your not-exactly boyfriend and disappearing with him after football games.

“There’s never anything to do,” Rachel said. She blew on her toenails, which she had just finished painting. She had them separated with cotton balls and was wondering why she even bothered when A. She always wore shoes, at least in public and B. It was, now that she got a good look at it on her actual toenails, kind of an extremely ugly coral pinkish red that Maya was letting her use, and C. She had some idea that maybe it was ridiculous for girls to always be painting their toenails. Like, why? To be decorations? For who -- or for whom, whichever it was. For boys? That was so sexist. And anyway, were there really out there boys who were like oh, I really like that girl, she’s so cute, but her toenails aren’t coral pink, so no?

“Did you get this?” Maya asked, still looking at her phone.

“Who is it?” Rachel asked.

“Jerry. He wants to know if anyone is down for a movie.”

“Oh!” Rachel said. All three of them stayed where they were but perked up internally. Was this a date? Rachel thought about that time that she had walked in step with Jerry. That was cool. That was actually really cool.

“If you’re down or if people are down?” Sabrina asked.

“People, I think?” Maya said.

“Something to do,” Sabrina noted.

Rachel checked her phone. “I got it,” she said, and everyone’s posture sort of relaxed, because although no one said it, if Rachel was invited then obviously that meant that every person they could pretty much imagine was invited, because if Maya was invited it might end up sort of a date thing somehow even if a few people were going, but if Rachel got it then it was obviously a group thing. The fact that everyone knew this immediately and she could tell that they knew it depressed Rachel.

Sabrina checked her phone. “Yeah, Ben and Jerry and those guys?”

“Cole, Dylan,” Maya theorized.

No one said Mike.

“I mean, what movie?” Rachel asked. They all looked up from their phones for a brief moment.

“Movies are like a million dollars to go, it’s kind of ridiculous how much you’re paying for something you could see on Netflix in a like, month,” Sabrina said, which reminded Rachel that she herself was in fact kind of rich, and it was kind of embarrassing that she ever even forgot that, but how was she supposed to constantly be aware of it?

“Get a boy to buy your ticket,” Maya said.

“No, don’t,” Rachel quickly said, not sure if this was a serious question. “Then it’s a date. I mean, right? I’ll buy your ticket if you want.”

“You’re nice, but it’s all good,” Sabrina said, hating that this had to be a thing. She pretended to laugh and said, “Oh my God, Maya, no boy would buy me a ticket anyway.”

Rachel and Maya immediately saw this as an obvious attempt for sympathy but since they were friends and friends give sympathy, Rachel said, “Are you kidding? Any guy would love to go out with you.”

Maya sort of smiled in a supportive but then felt herself sort of turning into a little bit of a new person, becoming the skeptic, the crass one, now that She Who Shall Not Be Named wasn’t around. She said, “If they buy you a movie ticket, you have to have sex with them. That’s an automatic fact, I read that in -- wait, what’s ‘Fast and Furious?’” she asked, scrolling.

“A movie?” Sabrina tried.

“Definitely,” Rachel said. She pulled her foot toward her face and blew on her nails, which were seeming pretty dry, but then sometimes you thought that and later when you took your socks off they were all gunky.

Maya updated the info, reading off, “So we’ve got Ben and Jerry, Dylan, Karen and, wait for it …?”

“Naeli,” Sabrina and Rachel said.

“We down?” Maya asked generally into the air.

“I don’t know,” Sabrina said, suddenly exhaling. That had been so weird, because she had just been thinking about what she really wanted to do tonight, and then she thought Maya had said, “Weed down?” And it was kind of sick and disgusting and pathetic how her heart had kind of skipped a beat and not even funny that it was a word mistake. God, was there something wrong with her, or what?

She sighed. Rachel looked over, then went back to work on her toes.

Well, Sabrina thought, movie or weed, but no way she could afford both. Although if Karen and Naeli were there she might be able to score a few hits of off them but lately she was always never buying, just using other peoples’ weed and it got kind of uncool, even though Karen was always saying that it was chill, let’s just kick it, you can find some next time, but still a person felt guilty and that could definitely harsh the mellow.

Rachel cleared her throat and asked as casually as she could, “What about Cole and Mike and Andrea and those guys?”

There was a long few seconds while Maya pretended to scroll through her messages. “Not seeing them yet.”

Sabrina and Rachel exchanged a glance. At some point, Andrea and Maya would make up, but for right now it was apparently Sabrina and Rachel’s job to talk about it with Maya now to make her feel better. But how had they ended up on Team Maya, anyway, because it wasn’t like Andrea had really done anything bad to them? And Mike? That was just too awkward.

“Dylan’s out,” Maya announced.

Rachel asked, “So that’s furious how many now?”

Maya counted. “With us, eight. I think it’s about guys driving cars.”

“Pull up the trailer,” Sabrina said, wandering the bedroom. It was probably double the size of her own bedroom and there was all kinds of cute decorations and stuffed animals and shit that Sabrina wished she still had. A lot of it had gotten thrown out when they’d moved the last time.

“What are you doing?” Maya asked.

“I’m busy,” Sabrina said. She was reading an old collage of Maya’s in super-childish handwriting from like zero grade.

Maya said, “God, I need to throw some shit out.”

Sabrina said, “You were so cute!”

“Shut up.”

“You were, though,” Sabrina said. “You wanted to be a ‘disco dancer.’”

“Oh God, that!” Maya shrieked. She jumped up. “I have to take that down right now.”

“A disco dancer?” Rachel repeated. “For a career?”

“No, for like her favorite thing to do,” Sabrina said.

“Oh, my God, how did the teacher let me do that?”

“What even kind of life goals is that?” Sabrina asked.

“Is that Ms. Rawls?” Rachel asked.

“No, I wasn’t at Miller, remember? Oh, Karen is out.”

“There goes Naeli,” Sabrina said, thinking, oh, well, there goes my weed.

“Malik is in, do we like him?” Maya asked.

“He’s okay I guess?” Rachel said.

“I have no special opinion about him,” Sabrina said. They all avoided saying that there seemed to be something between him and Andrea. Actually, there seemed to be something between Andrea and a few different people?

Maya said, “What should we say?”

Sabrina said, “I’d be down for something, not necessarily a movie?”

Maya let people know. Meanwhile Rachel showed Sabrina a Harambe meme that they both forced a laugh about. Memes that you showed someone else were either way funnier because you both laughed, which was what Rachel had been hoping for, or they were really unfunny because you were trying too hard to show someone something that really wasn’t that great. This was that.

Maya said, “Meeting at the movie in ten minutes, just to let parents think, then do something else.”

“I’m down, I guess,” Rachel said. She started putting her socks on.

“Yeah, sure,” Sabrina said.

God, I hope Andrea doesn’t show, Maya thought, and texted, “on our way.”

 

Jerry skated over to Tim’s. Lately it seemed like Tim was being weird about skating together? But then when Jerry texted that he was there Tim just came out and it was chill. They skated down to the theater, Tim going onto and off the sidewalk and dodging traffic and Jerry following and basically doing the same tricks. Like, basically the same? A few he skipped because tbh they really weren’t that safe.

Malik was there when they got there, he’d been dropped off by his mom or something, and the three of them chilled for a second and waited for the girls. Girls always took forever, everybody knew that. Malik tried to grab Tim’s cap and Jerry sort of helped out but nobody was really that into it and still the girls weren’t around. The guys decided to do something else while they waited.

They went into the giant candy store that sold everything ever made out of sugar ever and Cole showed up and started pretending to knock over displays and towers of candy and it was pretty fucking funny as far as Jerry was concerned. But also he didn’t feel at all comfortable about the whole being in a candy store thing and being possibly made fun of for eating too much candy maybe when he was a kid or whatever, and he knew, like, he knew, that he needed to get over being chubby and everything, but it was just kind of hard.

Plus there was some sick candy including a Kit Kat that was as big as a person practically and they pretended to break off a piece and eat it and Snapchatted that and Jerry could see where it was kind of worn in the corner from people picking it up and messing with it and that was kind of sad that people did that to the poor giant wrapper, it looked so good, but whatever, what even was he thinking about, it was just some candy in a store.

Tim and Malik were arguing about what candy was the best, basically it was the Halloween argument again but they were being sort of loud and then Jerry saw that Cole was giving him a weird smile and gave a weird eyebrow twitch and Jerry saw that Cole had a weird bulge in his shirt and Jerry was like, oh shit, he’s stealing stuff. And then it was like, well, what do I do? because Jerry would never in a million years like, tell on him, but it was also super uncool to steal from a store, plus illegal, could you got to juvie for that? And also, it was dragging Jerry into it and now he couldn’t pretend he hadn’t seen it and it was kind of messed up, and the only thing that he could think to do was get out of there as fast as possible.

So he and Cole took off and went running down the sidewalk. Tim and Malik were kind of pissed because suddenly everyone had ditched them and Tim caught up to Jerry and was all, “What the fuck?”

Jerry was like, “Ask Cole, we had to ditch.”

Tim said, “What, why?” and Cole showed them all this huge mound of candy from under his shirt and he was cracking up about it and Malik went, “Dude, sick, give me some of that,” and Cole kept glancing back at the store and walking fast the other way.

But then Tim caught up to him and said, “Bruh, not cool.”

Cole said, “Bruh. Then don’t have any.”

“That’s not the point,” Jerry said.

Malik said, “What are you, gonna take him back and narc on him?”

“No,” Jerry said, but he wasn’t sure what they actually were going to do.

“Yes,” Tim said. “Fucking take it back.”

“Don’t tell me what to do,” Cole said.

“It’s bullshit,” Tim said, “Stealing’s wrong, you know it. You could have paid for it.”

Cole said, “Whatever, it’s not the end of the world, it’s just some candy. Fuck. Chill. Plenty of illegal shit goes down, like at that party you were all raging at, I don’t see you saying anything.”

“That was different,” Tim said, trying to figure out the difference. He wasn’t raging, but he knew Cole was just saying that to change the subject.

Malik said, “Victimless crime, smoking weed.”

Cole nodded at that.

“Girls are at the theater,” Jerry said.

There was a hesitation.

Tim shook his head a few times, frowning. “Fuck it, don’t take it back, but don’t do it again.”

“I’ll do whatever I want,” Cole said. “How is it your problem?”

“It’s my problem because I was right in there with you,” Tim said.

“Exactly,” Jerry said, wishing he’d thought to say that. “My dad says—”

“Okay, next time I won’t do it if you’re there?” Cole said.

Tim thought for a second. “Fine,” he said.

Jerry nodded.

Malik looked at Tim and Cole for a moment, then said, “We cool?”

Tim shrugged.

Cole said, “Yeah.”

Malik said, “Cool, let’s see what’s up with the girls.”

 

Nobody really had the greatest motivation for the movie except Jerry and even he wanted to hang out with the girls more even though obviously he didn’t say that. So it ended up being a walk, basically, just randomly in no particular direction.

Some older people were out because it was Friday night so the guys had to kind of man up so that some college thugs or whatever wouldn’t intimidate the group but also were skating in and out of people, which got complicated.

Then it got more suburban and less street lights, more houses, and mostly it was just people telling funny stories and stuff like that, but Jerry kept feeling like something was missing? He thought what it could be for a while but wasn’t sure. He had been kind of skating into the street and then back into little, like, conversations with people as they walked, same as Tim, but then they had both kind of separately but at the same time realized that it was a little douchey to roll away when someone was talking to you, and picked up their boards for a while.

Jerry noticed that after a while everyone else was a little bit ahead, but him and Rachel were walking together. She had a weird little look but it was dark and he couldn’t quite figure it out and then she sort of hopped and skipped to sort of catch up with him but he wasn’t even going that fast? She was being weird. He slowed down in case he was being rude but then she slowed down the same way and it was like, why are you slowing down, are you okay? Except he didn’t ask it out loud.

It was like, for a while he had thought that maybe he liked her? Or maybe in a kind of special friend way, or something? But when you saw her with Sabrina there it was like no contest. He moved a little faster to catch up with Tim and Cole and Sabrina, plus Maya and Malik who were kind of ahead, and Rachel kind of raced with him, which was like, God, stop chasing me.

Sabrina was saying, “Never have I ever—”
And immediately Jerry said, “Oh, can I start in—”

And Rachel said, “Can we start over—”

And Cole said, “Next round,” and Tim said, “Whatever.”

Sabrina said, “Well, just -- never have I ever made a basket in basketball?”

“What!” Tim practically yelled.

Maya and Malik stopped and came back and were like, “What? What happened?”

“Oh my fucking God you have to be kidding me,” Cole said.

“What happened?” Maya asked.

“I knew that. I would have totally said that,” Rachel put in, but no one seemed impressed. When she thought about it for a moment longer, it was a stupid thing to say, anyway, because no one would have asked her if she’d known, that wasn’t how the game worked.

“I’m down to six,” Tim said.

“What already?” Maya asked.

“Sabrina has never made a basket in basketball,” Cole said.

“That’s impossible,” Malik said, laughing.

The others started laughing, too. It grew and spread.

“Oh, my God, you guys,” Sabrina said, but she was laughing now, too. “You guys are so mean! Oh, my God, a girl can’t help it if --”

“How can anyone be in ninth grade and never ever have made a single basket?” Cole demanded.

“We’ve had P.E. basketball for about a hundred years,” Maya said.

“So?” Sabrina said. “A lot of people have never made --”

“Bullshit!” about three people said at once.

“I have this nephew, I’m not even lying to you,” Malik said, “Four years old? Makes like a hundred baskets a day. Never stops practicing.”

“On a kid’s basket,” Tim said.

“No, regulation,” Malik said.

“I call bullshit on that,” Jerry said.

“Hey, fuck you,” Malik said. “My nephew is a baller. I got him a Steph jersey, he wears it like 24/7.”

Tim said, “Curry is overrated.”

“What? What the hell did you just say?” Malik demanded.

“Guys!” Rachel said. “Let’s just continue the game.”

“It’s like, no way I could have heard that right, you did not just say that Steph Curry is --”

“Guys,” Maya said.

“Whose turn is it? Tim asked, and added quietly to Malik, “Chokes in the playoffs.”

“You’re fucking hallucinating,” Malik said back. “I feel sorry for you.”

“Were you even playing?” Maya asked Rachel out of curiosity, but then realized how it sounded and added, “I mean, I wasn’t, it’s all good, it’s not…” she wasn’t sure where she was headed.

Jerry said, “How about Rachel does one?”

“Where we going?” Cole asked.

They all looked around. Tim said, “You know where are? You know we should go?”

“Where?” Cole asked.

Tim laughed, and then Jerry laughed too, figuring it out. Jerry announced, “Comstock Elementary Class of 2011 in the house!”

“Oh my God, yes!” Maya said. “Let’s go there! I have to see how big that lower playground is. And oh! I have to do the … monkey bars,” her voice trailed off at the end as she remembered that monkey bars was a total Andrea thing.

“It’s trespassing,” Rachel pointed out.

“Oh, no,” Cole said. “We’ll disturb all the kindergarten kids hanging out at fucking 10 o’clock at night at school.”

Sabrina said, “We don’t have to if Rachel…” and everyone looked at Rachel, who said, “No, it’s cool,” worried what her mom and dad would say.

They turned up the little hill that they all remembered so well. There it was, their old elementary school.

“Did you even go here, I don’t even remember you,” Tim said to Malik.

“Racist,” Cole said.

“No, dumbfuck,” Malik said. “He would remember me even more if I was the only black kid. I transferred in fourth,” he explained to Tim.

Tim threw his skate down and shredded the curb, Jerry doing the same right after him, feeling good because he completely nailed it except for falling off just right at the end.

“That is the lamest mural of all time, was that even there?” Rachel asked. They all looked at an undersea mural with some misshapen animals and distorted perspective.

“Fucking retarded little kids go here now,” Cole said, laughing. “That whale looks like a sperm.”

“Sperm whale,” Jerry said.

“Don’t say retarded,” Rachel said.

“Sorry,” Cole said, not that sorry.

They walked into the grounds. Everything seemed insanely small.

“I am a giant human,” Sabrina announced, hulking stiffly over the water fountain like a robot, kind of cracking everyone up and feeling weirdly psyched about it because it wasn’t really that often that everyone cracked up because of something she did.

“Shh,” Rachel said, but it was unlikely anyone in the neighborhood could hear some kids messing around at the school. Could they?

Tim jumped on a tiny bench then said, “Check this out,” and jumped off, announcing “Parcour!” as he landed about a foot down from there.

Malik and Cole thought that was hilarious, then Cole said, “Check this out,” and started climbing a little wall to keep little kids out of the janitor area. When he was on top he sat down looked at the others and said, “I have this weird need to spit.”

“Fucking don’t,” Maya said, laughing.

Jerry watched her and Sabrina laugh at Cole up there and climbed the wall, too, hoping his shirt wasn’t climbing up in back like it sometimes did. He and Cole steadied each other and climbed from the wall to the roof of the classroom building.

“Shit,” Tim said. “Nice!”

“What’s up there?” Malik asked.

“Maybe you guys shouldn’t?” Rachel said.

“This is sick!” Cole announced.

“What?” Maya asked.

“There’s like a million balls up here,” Jerry explained. They disappeared from view, and then balls started bouncing from the roof onto the playground below. This for some reason cracked everyone up and Tim climbed up there, too, while everybody else tracked the balls down and chucked them back up, those bouncy red and yellow balls from elementary schools everywhere, and the guys tried to keep them off the roof and everyone was having a good time.

It went on for a while, surprising Jerry, who was chasing balls all over the roof and trying not to trip while he ran on the roof and wondering if his skateboard was okay down there, probably it was, what could happen to it? It was kind of unexpectedly insanely fun, every single person was involved, Jerry wasn’t sure why it was so great, just a game of throwing balls, but people were cracking up and even Sabrina got major applause for managing to get a ball onto the roof twice even, maybe because it was their old school that it was so fun, or breaking rules or everyone having just something to do together, like everyone doing it?

But then Cole chucked one way hard that bounced once on the playground and went right through a classroom window, crashing the glass.

“Oh, shit!” Maya said.

“Let’s get out of here!” Rachel called out responsibly. She had gotten caught up in the fun and was a little out of breath from chasing balls down, she had been so stupid to forget how much noise they were making and now they had done it.

“There’s no alarm?” Cole asked.

“Silent alarm,” Tim said.

“Nah, there’s no silent alarm at a school,” Malik said.

“They have to put up a sign that says if there’s silent alarm,” Jerry said.

“No, they don’t,” Maya said. “They just put one up so you won’t do stupid shit.”

“Too late,” Cole said, and started climbing down. The other two on the roof came down, too.

“Let’s head,” Sabrina said. The last thing she needed was cops.

“Hold on, check this out,” Cole said. He went over to the classroom window. The ball had neatly shattered a window. He looked closely at it and then suddenly grabbed the side of the window where his hand wouldn’t get cut and used it for leverage to hop right into the little classroom.

“Ho, shit!” Malik said.

“Get the fuck out of there!” Tim sort of whisper-shouted, trying to get Cole out but not wanting to be heard by the whole neighborhood.

Suddenly something appeared out of the window. It was something that Cole was holding out, and kind of waving back and forth. They all looked closer in. It was a kid’s drawing that said, “THIS IS LAME.” And everyone cracked up, even the girls who were getting worried that the cops were about to show up.

“How even are you allowed to put that on your drawing?” Jerry laughed.

“Oh, shit, that kid is dope!” Malik said, barely catching his breath from laughing so hard. “That motherfucker came to school to tell these teachers what time it is. Let me see that.”

Cole waved it again, then yanked it in.

“Imma see what else,” Malik said, heading for the open window.

“No, don’t!” Sabrina said.

“This is lame,” Jerry said.

“You guys!” Rachel said very loudly, and everyone sort of paused what they were doing. “Not this is lame!” she explained. “This is Lambie, like a lamb? Look at the picture!”

“Oh, my God, you’re totally right,” Maya said. “Not lame, lambie!”

“Good call,” Jerry said, and Rachel felt proud, ridiculously proud, like how great an accomplishment was that? Decoding a first-grader’s picture, and also this was just distracting her from being pissed off at Cole. And now Malik, who had just jumped into the class, too.

Tim and Jerry looked at each other, and at the girls.

“They have to get out of there,” Jerry said.

“It’s a school,” Tim said, as though that wasn’t obvious, then got mad at himself because it was such a stupid thing to say and he could even see Sabrina laughing at him and it hurt extra because she looked hot tonight and especially when she laughed, but obviously not when she was laughing at him, but then he thought that that was obvious, he was thinking too much about it, he was overthinking it again and --

He went over to the little window and called in, “We’re taking off right now. You guys either come with us or stay there, we’re out.”

“Wait!” Cole said from inside.

“Hold on, check this out!” Malik said.

“We need to get out of here!” Rachel said.

“Everybody stop right where you are,” the cop behind them said.

 

 

 

 

The Party

 

It was like death at school for like solid five days, everyone walking around all oh my God I’m so depressed. Andrea was like, how are people so stupid that they get caught breaking into a school? Like literally who does that? Breaking out of school, that makes sense, do that! Half of them were grounded now and the other half -- God, not that she cared. Jesus!

She was invited to a party Friday night that was going to be lit af, Carson and Madison who were in 10th and 11th, this really super chill brother and sister that everyone knew you could score weed from but not like that, they weren’t all shady dealers and everything, just super chill and the whole thing was going to be at their house and everything and Andrea had gotten invited, like one of the first people to be invited and probably definitely the first ninth grader and then it turned out that Carson and Malik’s brother Ray were pretty much besties, both of them juniors, so Ray was going to give Malik a ride, and Malik was all do you want a ride with us to Andrea and she was like, hell yeah. Not too too excited though to Malik’s face because even though he was chill and btw super cute she didn’t want him automatically thinking he was getting any. But, like, she would consider it? But he shouldn’t take it for granted, that was for sure. But who probably or definitely wasn’t going to be invited to any party like that? People like Maya and Cole and them, it’s not like Andrea had some big grudge or anything against them, it was just, they were kind of pathetic.

 

Mike didn’t even know about the party until Friday itself but then Andrea said hey a bunch of us are going to a party and it was a little bit weird to be invited? In fact a lot weird, like exactly what did kind of friend did Andrea think Mike was to her was unclear. Like, what was her deal? He didn’t really know. Like, not at all. Mostly girls were basically always a mystery even though he had kind of learned a lot more about them lately, but it wasn’t like he could tell, like, at all, what Andrea really thought about him. But then he made the stupid, like really, really stupid mistake of asking Rachel and Jerry at lunch if they were going and they were all no, haven’t really heard about it and Mike was like, oh, yeah, no, I only just heard about it myself, probably won’t go, but everyone could tell that he was suddenly just trying to be nice, that they weren’t invited and he was, and it was just super awkward.

 

It was so sad lately for Sabrina how lunch and Quad Squad had gotten kind of really weak, it was kind of like everything else in her life, like she was failing she didn’t even know how many classes and her mom had had to come in and talk to the counselor about possibly transferring to some stoner school and Sabrina actually didn’t even care that much because Kennedy and Q Squad and everything used to be cool like at the beginning of school? Like it was way, way better than middle school. But then it got sad, it got weak and people started, even the few friends she had like couldn’t, get along. And she didn’t know if somehow maybe it was all her fault? Even though that didn’t exactly make sense but it was like a thing that you know, but isn’t true? Like you know it’s true on a deeper level, if that makes any sense.

Plus there wasn’t weed around, strange but true, people were kind of out at least for a while, because she hadn’t been hanging out much and she was seriously broke, usually a guy would give you a toke before school or whatever, but lately her mom had been dropping her off so late to school, not that she cared, except then she had to go through half of school without any smoke.

You could get high usually if you went to the church on the second corner’s parking lot under the big tree, but when she did it was just guys, no other girls and they were being super gross, like sketchy gross, making all kinds of comments, about girls’ bodies and everything, like she had heard it all before, but it started to feel like seriously not safe, and maybe that was the paranoia of the weed talking but she had to stop going to the church at least for a few days because she wasn’t about to get raped over some pot. Or, of course, at all. But anyway, yeah. No pot.

 

Jerry was thinking that this had been kind of the best school year ever and the worst school year ever all at the same time. The thing where everybody got busted at the old elementary school was so stupid, but Jerry and Tim weren’t even in the room, that was Cole and Malik, but yeah, anyway truthfully he had been there, like, at the school, and he had basically made the girls stay or at least really wished they would, so he did feel like some of it was his fault.

His dad was super nice about it even though Jerry could tell he was disappointed. That was even worse, though, than him being mad. Jerry watched him get kind of quiet in that way Jerry knew he had of letting you know he’s disappointed and after a while he went to the garage to work on his RC cars, and Jerry was thinking, like, do I go out there and say more? But what was he supposed to say? He had fucked up, he had admitted it, he had said he was sorry, his dad took away the Xbox, like what else was supposed to happen Jerry don’t know.

But that’s what Jerry felt was a really bad thing about Kennedy. It was like, that kind of thing wouldn’t have happened last year. Like at the beginning it was super chill at Kennedy because teachers just treated people different at high school and people are more relaxed about who they hang out with. It wasn’t this big deal like in middle school where you offend the shit out of people if you don’t hang out with them for one lunch.

Jerry had decided that one thing he wanted to do before he died would be to travel around the world. Like not just see places, but start in one place and go exactly like straight west or north or whatever and see everything that is on that line exactly around the world. That would be so sick.

Plus the girls were way hotter in high school. Mostly they were the same girls but they were hotter, did that make sense? And he sort of thought that by now he might get a date or something, but nothing had happened?

Nobody seemed like they want to go out with Jerry specifically, they weren’t like, oh, Jerry, please take me out or whatever. But nobody had said no, either, because if he was being honest he had been being kind of a coward maybe?

There was one girl he’d been wanting to ask out who was super cute but he feel like he’d already probably told too many people, like Tim and everybody about who he like and who he didn’t and he thought that maybe he’d be better off if he just didn’t say who it was. Like not jinx it. Also out of respect.

Because he also felt that if you actually like someone you don’t go saying anything about them. Like if you say, oh, she has a nice butt, or even like nice hair, or personality, then the person that you told would start way paying attention to it, like stalking her hair or whatever and not giving her any privacy and that’s not cool.

Part of it was that there were a couple of girls he liked and he couldn’t really choose and if you go out with one of them then the feelings of the other ones might be hurt.

But way more of it was that he could picture it, just like hear the words, him asking someone do you want to maybe do something, or however you say it, and them going, um, I have to do something, I have to wash my pet or something like on bad TV.

And if people knew the truth, the real truth, then if he was being really really honest, he was so totally petrified of all of that he just didn’t even want to try it.

Plus he didn’t even know when he would go out much because a lot of the time he went to RC car races with his dad on like nights that are date nights. Once the whole grounding thing was over.

But how even would that work anyway? It wasn’t not like he could pick a girl up because he didn’t have his license yet although he totally knew how to drive. His dad had showed him everything last summer and said that Jerry was actually really good at it.

So then what? Was he supposed to get a ride to a date? From, like, who? His dad? Come on. How was that supposed to work? Or okay you could meet somewhere, but where? And are you supposed to buy the stuff for them or do they pay for their own stuff? And more importantly, like more important than that, is how do you go from like, oh here have some pizza, wasn’t that movie sick, to kissing them and whatever? He really did not even get that part.

Also, he was thinking that he could maybe become a pilot, because they make a ton of money and he loved being in planes, he had been in one three times, and he was really good at controllers and things like that, which were basically like what a pilot does. Or also he was thinking a chef like at one of those expensive restaurants, In his opinion he was actually a really good cook, but also other people always said so, like his mom and dad, and if that was your job, you could eat whatever you made. He hadn’t really decided. He figured there was still time.

 

She didn’t want to tell anyone. And she did. The school counselor, she was cool, Sabrina had almost told her, but then she hadn’t. This was when Sabrina had gotten busted for being stoned in class but if they don’t find anything on you not much they can do. The lady was like oh I need to call your family and Sabrina was like go ahead they don’t care about me so whatever and the lady had actually been nice about it and not called. Basically it was obvious that the lady was fishing for Sabrina to tell her certain stuff but she wasn’t about, no way.

Like, she wanted to, sort of? But she couldn’t. If you did that, your family would never ever ever forget it and they would never ever talk to you again. Which would be fine, she wanted to be 18 already and get away from those fucking people or even run away right now, but also she didn’t want mom to be mad, not that it helped what Sabrina wanted, mom was going to be mad no matter what, but if Sabrina told about --

Anyway, it didn’t matter, because it was Friday night and all over the world people were out having fun and dancing and smoking pot and having a good time and maybe kissing their boyfriends and she was home alone again, not that she minded so much, at least when you were alone you didn’t have to be all fake friendly and happy and act like you’re having a good time.

Which she definitely, definitely wasn’t. Some days were bad and some days were worse. She didn’t really even have the energy to go to the bathroom, she had been lying on the floor next to her bed because she had sat down to take off her shoes when she got home and then had never found the energy to get up, just kind of lying down and listening to music on her phone and running the battery low and not caring and thinking about her mom’s Xanax and what would happen if you also drank a bunch of the vodka from the freezer at the same time. There was a singer who had died that way, but Sabrina couldn’t remember her name, and that made her super sad. Like, she had lived her whole life and been famous and everything and probably had a million boyfriends and then just OD’d and it was all over with. Life was shit, basically, and that singer, what was her name? Sabrina just could not remember.

 

“Yyyooooo,” Malik said, Andrea getting in the back. She was just a tiny bit messy from running out of the house quick, she had been expecting them but it had taken forever to get her hair right and now she pulled out her phone to see what it looked like, not terrible. Ray pulled away without even saying anything, just a quick check in his rear view that Andrea thought looked a little bit like he was checking her out, which was kind of interesting. It was in fact going to be a super interesting evening.

“What up, Malik?” she said. “Party time.”

“Word,” Malik said. “You know Terence and Boston?”

“Yeah, I think so?” Andrea said, not really knowing who he was talking about.

“Yeah, they’re going to be there, I’m hearing,” Malik said.

“Cool,” Andrea said, thinking, who even is called Boston?

“You seen this?” he asked, passing her back his phone.

“Oh, I know!” she shouted, making Ray slightly jump but not turn from driving. “That’s fucking hilarious.” She handed the phone back to Malik. She tapped at her phone and said, “Here, do you know this one?” He took it and laughed, but then he didn’t hand it back for a second. She waited, her hand kind of between his seat and the door, just smushed in there, then said, “What the fuck, give me back my phone.”

“I’m just checking what you and Cole were texting about,” he said.

“What? Shut up, give me that.”

“Oh, shit, he sent you a dick pic! No way!” Malik said, laughing hard.

“Oh, my God, shut up!” she screamed, hitting him as hard on the shoulder as she could from her weird back seat angle.

“You two shut the fuck up,” Ray said quietly, and they both did immediately. It was like having your dad in the car.

“Anyway,” she said quietly a minute later, when it seemed safe. “Nobody sent me any dick pic.”

“Bet you wish he did,” Malik said, but he gave her back her phone.

Andrea said, “I wonder if he’ll be there.”

“Who, Cole?”
“No, somebody else,” Andrea said. “Doesn’t matter.”

 

Rachel and Maya had been planning a sleepover for a while but stuff kept getting in the way and then by the time they did have time nobody else was available, Sabrina said she was busy and nobody was really talking to Andrea, and Karen and Naeli were just kind of not a good fit for a sleepover? Even the volleyball girls weren’t around or just weren’t answering texts which was super rude, but Maya and Rachel decided without saying anything to just act like they had meant to hang out just the two of them. They watched some bad comedies on Netflix and messed around with makeup tutorials and then decided to bake cookies for something to do. Maya’s mom was out at a movie, so they had the kitchen to themselves.

Maya was getting out flour and eggs and Rachel was putting on an apron when their phones both blew up.

“What is going on?” Maya asked, not wanting to stop doing something she was doing for her phone like always, wanting to just do stuff for fun in her actual own house with her actual own friend and not have to jump on her phone every time other people out in the world who weren’t there had something to say; but also not wanting to be left out of anything.

“Hold on,” Rachel said, scanning her texts. It was super awkward to know what to do. The texts were all about Andrea and some party and they were coming in from people who really barely knew Andrea but knew Rachel and Maya, and were basically snitching on Andrea for going to a party.

“It’s -- there’s some party, I guess?” Rachel said.

Maya could tell from that that Rachel was hiding something, because when Rachel read something she always understood it, she was a stone cold reader.

“It’s about Andrea, basically?” Maya asked.

“Basically.”

“Should I even look?”

“I mean, not if you don’t want to,” Rachel said, glad that this subject was now kosher for discussion. “But how are you feeling about all of it?”

“I don’t know,” Maya said, truthfully. “Part of the time it just seems stupid to me, like why are we even fighting, it’s just Andrea and we go so far back but she can be so mean sometimes. You know?”

“I understand,” Rachel said.

“You don’t have to pick my side.”

“I mean, it’s sad for everybody? I like her too.”

“I know. But she kind of stole the only chance I ever had with a guy?”

“Oh, no way. You are so going to get asked out by a million guys, stop that.”

“No, I mean. It’s just -- I guess, not like Mike.”

“Yeah, it seemed like you two --”

“But, I mean, isn’t it also his fault, if he couldn’t just keep his focus on me then go ahead, right? It’s like, you know what, follow your dick around instead of being a nice human being, I don’t care.”

“Which means you care.”

Maya sighed. “Pretty much. What’s this party?”
“I don’t know, do you have Eliza’s Snapchat?”

“I un-added her after the whole thing with the --”

“Oh, yeah, right, I probably should un-add her too. It was just this picture of Andrea at a party, Malik was there? And then some people I didn’t recognize.”

“What people?”

“They looked older.”

“She’s so …” Maya sighed heavily. She said, “I guess it’s not for me to judge.”
“Yeah.”

“We should preheat to 350.”

“Yeah.”

 

 

hi

hey

 

Wyd

 

Nm just chilling

 

ur cool Jerry

 

thx u to Sabrina what r u doing

 

nothing

 

did u see malik and andreas pics

 

no why

 

nothing just there at a party

 

hey can i tell you something

 

I think its sad how maya and andrea r having probs

 

yeah but not like i can fix it

 

yeah for sure go ahead

 

I’m not even sure what it was about

 

basically they both like the same guy old story

 

yeah do you know who

 

yeah everybody knows

 

ok

 

yeah its too bad

 

yeah

 

do u remember that time at that party when i kind of freaked

 

they will prob work it out

 

yeah i remember its fine everybody freaks

Tx but that was jsut my point i wanted to say that u were really sweet and i appreccitted it

 

np

 

ur a really cool guy JErry and i wanted to say that if someting ever happens to me than im glad i met u and your just really special and i hope u r happy

why what would happen to u

 

is something wrong

 

whats up are u there

 

Sabrina u there????? Say something jsut so i know your ok

 

Sabrina???

 

 

It was fucking lit. Lit af. They had a really sick sound system and it was super loud but it was a huge house so if you wanted to talk in the other rooms you could, plus there was a pool, a fucking pool, which if Andrea had known she would have totally brought a bathing suit. A couple of people were splashing around and it looked sick. There was like a lot of beer, and a whole lot of pot going around. She decided to kind of start off easy so she could pace herself. At the beginning she kind of stuck to Malik but then she got in the middle of this really funny conversation about a whole bunch of shit with these people who were literally seniors, and nobody even asked what she was doing there or anything, they were arguing about sometimes kind of boring shit like politics but also legalizing pot and the death penalty which was just so mature, it was sick.

Some people were dancing and for a while she did too, like with Malik or whoever was there but then this gross guy started putting major vibes out, he was gross, this like senior stalker or whatever. God, hit on someone your own age, gross. He kept trying to dance with her, and, like show her his lame-ass moves. He asked her name and how often she came to parties like this and other stupid shit that just made him seem desperate. She didn’t even know his name and didn’t ask, but then Ray wandered over and kind of stood next to her, kind of all protective and everything? Which she didn’t mind if it got rid of the creeper, but she didn’t want Ray to think she was all oh so grateful, either. The only thing that would have made it all kind of funner would have been if some girls had been there that she knew because there wasn’t exactly anyone to talk to? But it was lit.

Ray was drinking a Corona and even though he seemed fine Andrea thought, okay, well, that’s my ride. Still, obviously he knew how to take care of himself, he was a junior and he had a license and he was a good driver and everything and she didn’t want to seem all paranoid by asking him about it, anyway what would she say? Are you drinking that beer you’re drinking? Could you not?

Where was Malik, anyway? She hadn’t seen him in like a hundred hours. The pot was weird, she was getting a weird high off of it, not like before.

She walked outside to get some air. It was nice out there. Dark but with cool deck lighting that made everything seem like this adult party that celebrities go to and shit. People were getting into it, now, jumping in the pool and splashing like little kids, but more ironically or whatever, and it seemed way fun. Suddenly she was dying to go in the water. Where was Malik? There were way more people in, because everybody had started just going in in their underwear. They were having a seriously fun time.

A guy she had definitely seen around school, possibly varsity basketball, way tall and way hot, just dropped his pants right in front of her and it was like, okay… He grinned back at her and said, “Your turn.”

Andrea was like, “What?”

“Come on, get in, everybody is!”

She said, “Well…”

But before she could finish he took two steps and launched a major cannonball into the pool, cracking up everybody who was in the pool. He came up and looked up at her and said, “What are you waiting for?”

And it was like, good question. She looked around for a second, then started unbuttoning her jeans.

 

“Honestly? I think you should talk to him again,” Rachel said. “He’s just a nice guy.”

“These are so sick,” Maya said. “Aren’t they good?”

“These are like award-winning cookies. We should go on that British Baking Competition.”

“We would kick their British asses. But what would I say?”

“I don’t know, like, ‘We Americans make the best baked goods in the world, this is why we fought the Revolutionary War, motherfuckers!’”

“No, I mean, to Mike.”

“Oh.”

“Yeah. Your bad.”

“Okay, how about, well -- what do you want to say?”

“You’re a douchebag I wish you would die.”

Rachel laughed. “Okay, good start.”

“I mean, what?”

“Can’t you just say … something honest, like you like him and you’re wishing you could find a way to patch things up?”
“Why doesn’t he patch things up with me?”

“I don’t know. He should. He -- he doesn’t -- he should. You’re right. But do you want to wait for that for the rest of eternity?”

“No, but I can’t just go saying, like, what you said.”

“Why not?”

“Because -- what am I, going to just walk up to him and be like, ‘Oh, hi, remember me that pathetic girl from that time --”

“Not a good start.”

“Well, God, I can’t!” Maya said, suddenly getting more worked up than ever.

“It’s okay, it’s okay,” Rachel said.

“I know, it’s just that I wish … I don’t know.”

They sat on the couch together and both downed a cookie and some milk before anyone said anything else.

“Look, how about this?” Rachel finally said. “How about I text him, just kind of to say hi, and if it comes up kind of let him know where I am, and then I can see if he wants to talk to you?”

Maya thought for a second, clicking her teeth together nervously and to clear cookie gunk out.

“Okay, but don’t say that I’m here watching you, that’s so lame.”

“What if he asks?”
“I don’t know, just make something up.”

“Okay. Ready?”

“No.”

“Okay, I’m going to do this. Unless you stop me.”

Maya grabbed a couch pillow and put it entirely over her head. From inside came a muffled voice saying, “Go ahead, I’m ready.”

 

hey

 

yo Rach

 

busy night ur house?

 

no

not at all

 

Oh too bad

 

unless you consider plying smash bros busy haha

 

“Maybe just stop there,” Maya said.

“What? I haven’t even said anything!”

“Exactly.”

“Don’t be a wimp.”

“I am a wimp!”

“Wimp.”

 

what r u doing

 

hanging out eating choc chip cookies

 

what that sounds sick

 

oh its a lit party you better believe boiii

 

I want a cookie

 

Its me and maya were just having a sleepover

 

chill

 

yeah plus not only cookies there’s milk

 

holy shit that’s dank

 

Right? We party hard

 

Savs

wheres my cookie

 

Sitting here, we made way too many lol

 

“Don’t say that!”

“What? Why not?”

“It sounds like you’re inviting him over!”
“I’m just joking around. Relax.”

“Give me that phone.”

“Shut up, don’t touch.”

 

You want a cookie youll have to earn it

how

 

be nice

 

?

 

I am nice

 

are you tho

 

what do u mean

 

Its all good

 

Is this about u

 

no its nothing

 

“Don’t say that!”
“What? Which part?”

“Don’t say it’s nothing!”

“Oh my God you are being so weird, just stop.”

“What I’m just -- oh my God! Oh my God!”

 

is this about maya

 

Jerry started running. No one was home besides him and anyway his Dad would probably not have given him a ride or maybe worse would have tried to get involved and that wouldn’t be good either.

It was probably maybe a mile or two so if he was in P.E. that was maybe 15 minutes if you were really booking it, at least that was where he remembered her living. He thought as he ran, pounding out thoughts as he fell into a steady jog down the sidewalk in the dark, pounding, thinking, could anyone else give him a ride, getting into rhythm of the stride, why wasn’t she answering texts, it definitely sounded like something really serious, lungs already hurting, who says that they want you to have a good life, it sounded like a goodbye, she was always sad, it all kind of made sense, but that made no sense at all, second wind now, he could ask someone else where she lived, but then they would ask why he wanted to know, everyone would assume he was trying to bone her, why did everything have to be about that always, she was super nice sometimes, what was he doing, this was crazy, what if he got there and she was just fine, her phone died, or she didn’t live there, can’t do it in 15 minutes no way, he’d knock on the door and they’d be like what are you doing here, also how was he supposed to get back, run back again? But she seemed really bad off. Like, really bad.

Jerry kept running.

 

“Matro!” she said, a bit of pool water in her mouth.

“Polo! What did you say?”

“I said Marco!” she laughed.

Andrea bounced along the bottom of the pool with her toes, medium deep part of the pool, her eyes closed, not sure what she had yelled, actually. It was pretty freaky bouncing along a pool in your undies in the dark at a stranger’s house with cute older guys all around, stoned, but so so fun.

Jonathan was the guy on her right, he was trying to say she was cheating or something?

She heard Jonathan’s voice, “You said Mario or something.”

“No I didn’t, Marco!”

Penelope and Dominique, who were also playing, shouted, “Polo!” off behind and to the left.

She dove and opened her eyes. In the giant pool lights underwater she could see Jonathan’s, like, pretty much everything, he was wearing super-tight Jockeys, nice view.

She came up a little bit sputtering and shouted, “Marco!”

“Bullshit you were looking Polo!” Jonathan yelled.

Penelope and Dominique were now talking behind her, to somebody outside the pool, something about a show they had gone to and was it any good, they were barely in the game.

Andrea pushed off the bottom hard and searched to the right at the shallow end for Jonathan. Suddenly he was right there, she was on top of him.

“Got you!” she said.

“Got you,” he said back, kind of quiet and suddenly it was way different, and she realized that he was kind of holding her, his arms were huge, and she had ended up kind of up against him sideways, so she put her arms around his neck. It was easy in the shallow end. He bumped up with his legs, kind of making a lap for her to sit on and she thought, oh my. She opened her eyes and he was right there kind of smiling but kind of not. She kissed him. He kissed back, nice.

“Get a fucking room,” Dominique said, but it didn’t really sound like she minded.

Andrea glanced around. People were all over the place, just partying. No one really seemed to mind who kissed who or whatever. She put her hand on his chest, which was huge and like a rock. He put his hands under her butt and pulled her closer, up his lap, her legs twisting around his back. Even in a pool she could feel everything.

“We still playing?” Penelope asked.

Before Andrea and Jonathan could answer, somebody said, “Playing what?” The voice sounded familiar. Oh shit, it was Ray.

“Just some Marco Polo,” Andrea said.

Ray ignored her. “Dude, freshman,” he said to Jonathan.

“Dude, chill,” Jonathan said.

“He’s my ride,” Andrea said, although it seemed kind of stupid to say. “He’s my friend’s brother.” She said it kind of quietly into Jonathan’s ear, her arms around his neck, and even just doing that felt totally sexy, like they were this couple in a pool who just whispered shit in each others’ ears hanging out in the shallow end.

“I am chill,” Ray said to Jonathan. He finally looked at Andrea. “You need to get out now.”

“Excuse me?” she said.

“You don’t want to know. This guy.”

Jonathan basically dropped Andrea. He stood up and said, “This guy what?” as Andrea kind of almost ducked under and then stood up, herself. Ray stared right at her, and she started to think about how swimming in a kind of lacy white bra had some consequences and how kind of stupid she had been not to think about that. She folded her arms.

“Excuse me, can you toss me those?” she said to a girl sitting on a deck chair next to Andrea’s clothes. She ignored Andrea. She was watching Ray and Jonathan. She leaned over to a girl next to her and they both giggled about something and when Andrea followed their gaze it was obviously Jonathan’s boner. So childish. Andrea gave them a look that was kind of like, back off, that’s mine, but they couldn’t see her, probably because of the light in the pool being weird.

“Don’t worry about it,” Ray said. To Andrea he said, “Just come on out of the pool,”

“No, I’m worrying about it,” Jonathan said to him, then told Andrea, “Don’t go anywhere.”

Ray said to somebody behind him something Andrea didn’t really hear that sounded like, “Yeah shallow end of the pool, exact—… this guy …remember with… she’s maybe fifteen.”

Andrea stood there, not sure what to do. A little bit of the high was wearing off and she was starting to feel a little shivery. She let herself sort of drift under and came back up again, pulling her hair back from her face.

She was surprised to see that suddenly there was a lot of new shit going on. Jonathan was getting out of the pool and two other guys were coming over from the back end of the deck to join him. Malik came up and stood next to Ray, but Ray said, “Man, get the fuck out here.”

“What’s going down?” Malik asked.

“I said get the fuck out of here.”

“You okay?” Malik asked Andrea, basically staring at her boobs. Like, even more than usual.

“Toss me a fucking towel and my clothes, right there,” she said. “I’m freezing.”

He went to get the stuff, which was at least a little loyal.

“You got a problem?” Jonathan asked Ray. He was standing on the side of the pool, looking huge from Andrea’s point of view, she hadn’t realized how big he was, she couldn’t help noticing his Jockeys were still kind of stretched out, he was kind of gutsy to just stand there like that, but right then someone threw him a towel and he put it around his waist. Athletic body. Andrea thought, yeah, I might be having some of that, if I want. Do I want?

Malik had the towel ready so she climbed up the little stairs and put it around her. Now she was really shivering but at least she was more covered up. This whole party was getting intense. There were maybe twenty people gathering toward the action and more coming.

“Shit’s going down,” Malik said quietly, which was kind of like, stop trying so hard, Malik, because he was all trying to whisper in her ear like she and Jonathan had been doing, but it was completely different, like now that she and Jonathan had been kind of messing around it was like how could she have thought Malik was cute? Yeah she used to think she liked black guys more but come on, he was like 12 years old by comparison. But it was also kind of cool because he was her only actual friend there that she could just say stuff to.

“Your brother’s kind of being a dick,” she said, also quietly.

“I know,” he said. “He gets like that.”

“Don’t start none, won’t be none,” Jonathan was saying to Ray.

“Don’t be messing around with that girl, that’s all I’m saying,” Ray said.

“Don’t tell me what to do. It’s none of your fucking business.”

He was getting closer now and people were kind of crowding in, making it harder to see.

“You guys, chill out!” someone shouted.

“Let’s just all go dance!” a girl behind Andrea called out.

“Kick his ass, Ray,” some guy said, which pissed Andrea off. Why try to make it worse?

“It’s my business if you’re child molesting my friend,” Ray said.

“Child -- what the fuck is your problem?” Jonathan demanded. He gave Ray a shove in his chest. He sort of fell back into a bunch of people but they held him up.

“Wooah!” everybody yelled.

Ray started right back at Jonathan but a people held him back, grabbing his arms. Carson came running up behind Jonathan and said, “You guys fucking mellow out, this is my house. You good, Jonathan?”

Jonathan just nodded, keeping an eye on Ray. They were still faced off but Carson was kind of pushing ahead.

“Okay,” Carson said to Ray. “Just mellow out.”

“Kick out the child molesters then and I’ll mellow out,” Ray said.

“The fuck is your problem, boy?” Carson demanded.

Everyone went “Ohhh,” and Carson looked around with this look that was like what? What did I say? Andrea thought, he doesn’t even get why that’s offensive?

“What did you just say?” Ray demanded.

“Nothing, just leave!” a girl screamed at Ray, and Andrea recognized that that was Madison, Carson’s sister.

“Shut the fuck up, girl,” Ray said.

There was another oooh.

“Look, look!” Carson shouted, whiny but loud. “Just leave, get the fuck out of our house!”

Ray looked like he was just about to, when Vinh showed up out of fucking nowhere, Andrea hadn’t even realized he was at the party, God, how did she used to think he was cute? He fought through the crowd and stood right next to Ray, grinning like the maniac asshole he was. Andrea flashed back on Halloween and was like, oh, shit. Then, right when she was thinking it, in that instant, Vinh flashed something from his jacket pocket and everyone went, fuck!

Andrea heard, “He’s got a gun!” but she didn’t see it. There was huge jostling, she almost fell over, where the fuck was Malik, she had to hold the towel tight and her clothes were bunched in her hands and the crowd was freaking out, she was the shortest one there, and then through the pressing bodies Jonathan was suddenly next to her and she looked at him, kind of panicked, and he said, “I got you,” and then lifted her up, just put one arm under her butt like she was a little kid and carried her. She held on to his shoulders and watched a bunch of people surrounding Vinh and Ray, and it seemed like it had all gotten maybe under control. She could see better and Jonathan just went through the side French doors, away from the crowd of people.

“Let’s do this,” he said, still not putting her down, walking past the drinks table and grabbing two beers in one hand, and Andrea was like do what, but then he kicked open a bedroom door and the bed was just sitting there, looking perfect and she was like, oh, shit.

He kicked the door closed and set her down on the bed, kind of a toss more like, she sort of bounced and her towel came off. He put the beers down and pulled off his towel and his underwear off, too, like it was no big deal, Andrea couldn’t even look, she looked at his face and said, “Weird shit going down out there.”

He said, “I know, sick party,” with this excited kind of breathless voice, and she said, “No, I mean with that fight and everything and did he have a gun?” and Jonathan was all, “Lit party,” and she realized that he actually liked all that boy drama, it was getting him all, like, worked up, he took a huge swig of the beer and she took a quick, like, peek , and then he was on top of her and pulling off her bra and she said, “Woah, hold on,” and he said, “Fuck that, let’s do this,” and she said, “Okay, maybe, but just -- hold on -- are you sure it’s safe out there?” And he said, “Stop fucking talking, you’re ruining it,” and Andrea felt her knee kind of getting crushed by his leg and she was losing track of what was happening and she put a hand on his chest and said “get off,” but he didn’t, he had unsnapped her bra and was grabbing at her boobs and it was all way too much, his body was all on top of her, and she said, “Time out I just need to run to the bathroom” and pushed him hard on the chest and he laughed and sat back on the bed and reached for the beer but it was too far, so she handed it to him and then grabbed her clothes and raced out the door and took a right to what she thought was the bathroom, yeah, it was, shit, how did it lock, there, she locked it and leaned against it and turned the light on and whispered, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck!

 

what do u care if its about maya

 

“Wait, why are you asking him that?”

“Oh, my God,” Rachel said. “Can you not back seat drive every word I type? I got an A in English.”
“You get an A in everything,” Maya said, which was a stupid comeback.

 

shes cool im not mad at her

 

thats good maybe shes mad at u

 

???

 

is she?

 

maybe

 

for what

 

“God!” Rachel shouted, laughing. “You know what’s funny? I don’t even remember for what.”

Maya said, “For being an asshole. Don’t say that, though!”

“Duh!”

 

im not sure but tbh i think u and her should just talk

 

yeah

 

its not really on me

 

Yeah ok

 

Yeah ok what

 

ill talk to her

 

okay can u talk now

 

yeah

 

“Mission accomplished!” Rachel sang out, but Maya wasn’t even looking at her phone, she was looking at her own phone and she had a really strange look on her face.

“What?” Rachel asked. “What is it?”

Maya looked really pale. She showed Rachel her phone.

 

help help im at a fucken crazy party my ride is in a fight im kind fo in trouble can u pick me up

 

“Jesus,” Rachel said.

Maya was already texting:

 

r u ok my moms not here shes at a movie i cant even text her

 

no im not ok please plese do something my mom would kill me

 

“What the hell am I supposed to do?” Maya asked.

“We should help her,” Rachel said.

“Fucking duh, Rachel,” Maya said, jumping off the couch. They both knew that was a mean thing to say but it didn’t matter right now, there was too much to worry about.

 

If she wants to talk im down

 

hold on mike somethings going down gtg

 

“Wait!” Maya said. She took a breath, steadied herself, and texted him.

 

Hey mike we need help

Hey maya what do u mean

 

Is your parrots home can they give andrea a ride

 

*parents

 

no, sorry, not around, whats up

 

“Shit!” Maya said.

“Shit!” Rachel agreed. “Who else do we know?”

Maya was reading another incoming text from Andrea.

 

maya plz im beggin soryry ive been a bitch can u help

 

omw dont worry just need to figure it out hold on

 

Vin had a gun

 

“Fuck. Oh, shit!” Maya said.

“Oh, God, this is so bad,” Rachel said.

“Fuck it,” Maya said. “Put your shoes on.”

“What? Why?”

“I’m going to pick her up.”

Rachel just stared at her for a long moment. “You don’t even have a permit.”

“I know that, Rachel. Look, either you come with or you can just stay here, but I’m going. My dad taught me basically how to drive.” She grabbed some keys off a hook.

“Oh, my God,” Rachel said. “We can’t! Why don’t we just call the police?”

Maya just stared at her. “Seriously? Hi police, my friend is probably drunk off her ass and her mom doesn’t even know she’s there someone has a gun and they’re all going to jail? Come on, Rachel. We just pick her up, bring her back here.”

“I’m not going if it’s just us.”

“What do you mean?”

“Let’s -- it’s not safe, Maya. We could get just as much in trouble.”

Maya thought for a moment.

Then she said, “Tim,” at the same moment that Rachel said, “Mike,” and they were out the door.

 

 

 

 

What is Your Emergency?

“Dude, knock it off,” Tim said.

“What,” Mike said, picking the bottle off the curb. They were standing outside Mike’s house, waiting for the girls to show. Tim had basically sprinted over when he got the call. It was like in the Marines, you don’t wait or ask why you’re being sent into combat, you say Sir, yes Sir! and you haul ass because that’s your duty and because your buddies are depending on you. He had just grabbed a couple of knives to stash and put on his boots and run over.

He said, “There’s has just got to be such a thing as a bad time for a bottle challenge.”

Mike said, “Relax, when they get here I’ll stop. I’m just messing around.”

“Exactly,” Tim said.

Mike felt stupid and un-crisis-competent so he picked up the bottle and put it in his pocket which was ridiculous because it way stuck out, and then he just stood there looking unhappy. Tim looked at him, took pity, and said, “I guess it’s cool Maya texted you. I mean you were I thought not talking to each other.”

“I thought that, too,” Mike said. “Mostly it was Rachel. They were hanging out.”

“Plus Andrea,” Tim said.

“No,” Mike said, “She doesn’t hang out with them any more.”

“I thought they were all at this party.”

“No, just Andrea, I think she went with Vinh.”

Tim cracked his neck with a twist from side to side. “I hate that fucker.”

“I know. He’s bad news. He had a gun.”

“Did he … is Andrea … ?”

“Dude, I don’t know. Just that Maya and Rachel said meet here so we can all go down there.”

“Is that her? Fuck, she drives shitty.”

The silver mom car was sort of weaving as it turned the corner. It almost hit a parked car, then pulled up sort of near them, slowed, stopped, started a tiny bit more, then stopped suddenly. They could see Rachel’s head sort of thrown forward. They jumped in back.

“Hi, oh my God, thanks for coming so much,” Maya said.

“Want me to drive?” Tim asked. “I’ll drive.”

“Do you have a license?” Maya asked.

“No, but I’m way better than you.”

Maya looked at Rachel, who looked scared.

Tim said, “Let’s go,” and got out of the car to come over to the driver’s side. Maya got out and switched, getting in back, thinking that this might be either the smartest or dumbest thing she had done all night, she could no longer tell that kind of thing. She decided she would give him a minute to see how he drives and then take over if he got it wrong.

“I have the GPS,” Rachel said.

“Good,” Tim said, “Keep it coming,” and pulled away from the curb.

Rachel breathed a sigh of relief because already she could tell he was a way better driver. She said, “Left in one quarter mile, merge toward left lane when safe.”

Tim said, “Got it.”

In the back seat Mike said quietly, “Hey, Maya.”

Maya finally looked at him. She said, “Hey.”

 

Jerry was sweating horribly and his breath was coming in gasps but he thought this was the right house. This was the right house. If she still lived here. This was the right house.

He knocked on the front door, peeling green, no knocker, he knocked again, no answer, he checked his phone, nobody, he pounded on the door. Pounded again.

He ran around the side of the house. A gate with one of those latches. He reached up to unlatch it, worrying about a dog or something. Fuck it.

He unlatched it, nothing on the side of the house, a dead hose, he snagged his foot and half tripped. Around the back, a sliding glass door. He tugged at it. It slid, heavy. He tugged harder, making enough space for his body. He stepped in. Now he was a criminal. A dark kitchen.

“Sabrina? Hello? Sabrina! Sabrina?”

There was a light in the hallway. “Is anybody home?”

There was a small bedroom with a huge bed, messy with blankets and a quilt, but empty. The parents’ room? Possibly. Nobody in it.

He went back out into the hallway. There was a small room, maybe a utility closet thing? There was a light on in there. It was actually a tiny bedroom, obviously Sabrina’s with a single bed against the wall and her backpack and some clothes he knew she wore, but she wasn’t there either. There was nothing on the wall except one tiny crystal prismy thing hanging from a beaded chain from the window.

Back into the hall and there was only the bathroom and he could tell he had been hoping not to go in here but he had to inhale and do it.

“Sabrina?”

He pushed the door open. She was on the ground, flat on her back, her head next to the toilet. But the first part that Jerry saw was just her head, right up against the bottom of the toilet bowl, her hair a mess all over her face and on the bathroom floor. She was on the floor. He stood there, not doing anything. His first thought was that he wanted to move her hair so that at least she didn’t have it in her face and be like that forever, but then he thought that he had to do the right emergency things first and worry about that later. She was just lying there with her head on the ground and her body collapsed. They had one of those gross shag carpet covers on the toilet seat. Pink. He was still breathing hard. He leaned down to see if she was breathing. He couldn’t tell. He put his hand on her heart to see if it was beating. He didn’t want to touch her but he had to. He didn’t want to seem like he was grabbing her chest or anything like that. God, what if somebody walked in?

What a stupid thing to think. Come on, come on, is she alive?

 

“Sabrina? Sabrina!” He thought about slapping her. Was that a thing?

“Sabrina!”

He tapped 911 and prayed. He never prayed. He didn’t know how to. He prayed, “Please God, let Sabrina be alive.”

He thought about his dad and he tried to remember what people told you to do when someone was dying or dead and he couldn’t remember.

“911, what is your emergency?”

 

Tim seemed to actually know how to drive and Rachel was all over the navigation situation, so Maya just chewed on her fingernails and obsessively checked her phone. She looked over at Mike. He was just sitting there, giving off the energy of trying to be helpful but not having anything to do.

Maya realized that this was a decision. This was what they looked like. She had made a decision somehow, already. When?

She leaned over quietly and said, “Hey, so, I was thinking that when this is all over maybe you and I could talk and just sort some things out.”

He looked at her, half surprised, half feeling stupid because he should have said it, especially in that completely mature way, but now she had said it and he couldn’t be the one to go first and break the ice with his mature thinking.

“Prepare to make a right turn at the next light, which is Thaker Boulevard, in 500 feet,” Rachel geekily told Tim, who nodded grimly, sort of amusing Mike, as though making a right was a major military endeavor and Tim had to focus his hardcore badass Marines black ops training on it. Hoo-ah!

He said to Maya, “That’s a good idea.”

“Yeah.”

“What you said,” he clarified. “Before.”

“Yeah,” she said.

“I mean, but just not right now, that makes sense.”

“Yeah,” Maya said, thinking, I just said that.

“Do you -- what exactly is this party?” Mike asked.

“God, I don’t even know. I didn’t even really hear about until she texted me to get her.”

“What are we supposed to do when we get there?” Mike asked.

“Locate and recover,” Tim said from in front.

“What?” Maya and Mike both asked.

“Get her and leave,” Rachel translated.

“Basically,” Tim said.

Mike nodded, but he didn’t think anyone saw him do it. There was a second or two when he thought that maybe Maya had seen him nod and he would feel stupid adding an I get it, but then again maybe she hadn’t and they were all maybe waiting for him to say something? But then it got to be too many seconds and he just said nothing and felt ridiculous for messing it up and even more ridiculous for obsessing about it.

“Listen, I don’t want to be a wimp?” Rachel said after a while. “But honestly I think it’s better if I just stay in the car? Like we don’t need all of us and someone should stay --”

“Yeah, no,” Tim said. “I’ll go.”

“I’ll go,” Maya said.

“Us three, Rachel you watch the car?” Mike said.

Rachel looked back and said, “I think that makes sense, is that okay, Maya?” Staying alone in the car didn’t sound all that much safer, actually.

“Totally fine. I’ll go in with you two guys. But nobody try to hassle anyone or anything like that,” Maya said.

“I’m not going to hassle anyone,” Tim said.

“I know,” Maya said. “It’s just --”

“That was different,” Tim said.

Maya said, “I’m not saying you --”

“We just want it to go peacefully,” Rachel explained.

“Yeah,” Tim said. “That’s already the plan.”

Maya said, “Good.”

But Tim added, “The boxer? Mike Tyson? He said everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.”

Ten seconds of quiet passed, then Rachel said, “Prepare to park, your destination is on the right.”

 

Where the fuck was Ray, where the fuck was Ray? Where the fuck was Andrea, too? Malik had gotten sort of crushed up against the fence and he couldn’t see shit. He had to push two guys, big, they looked like probably college or something, they gave him these nasty looks but he needed to figure out what the fuck was going on. Vinh had a piece. You were supposed to say piece, not gun, for some reason. Fucking Carson and his racist friends were trying to start something and Ray had basically called out that Jonathan guy for macking on Andrea but then the whole party had freaked out. For a minute Malik had been with Andrea and even though it had been in the middle of a riot it had been kind of cool, just the two of them in that mess, and he thought that he could maybe sense something between the two of them. Like, she had been hinting that for a while, maybe? Like, why else go to a party with him? But then that Jonathan dude had liked carried her off like in some caveman movie.

Malik needed to find her, or find Ray. He tried to be smart about it, he climbed on a patio chair onto this outdoor glass table, it looked thick and solid enough, so he stood on it, holding on to the pole of the umbrella in the middle. He scanned the back yard. He couldn’t see her, but she was short and there were a fuckton of people. He tried doing it again, slowly. There was Ray. Vinh was next him. Carson was on the ground, in front of them. Oh, shit.

I gotta get the fuck out of here, he thought. But then he thought, you can’t ditch Ray. He jumped down and started to push his way over to Ray’s side and thought don’t worry about Andrea, she can handle herself pretty good.

 

There was a pounding on the door. No, not on the door because she would hear that louder, she was slumped against it, crying, sitting on the bathroom floor of fucking Carson and Madison’s house, why had she even thought this would be at all a good idea, she was crying and texting and they kept saying they were coming but nobody was here and Malik had ditched her and she was all alone and not high at all anymore, just feeling horrible and her clothes were drenched from the pool and if somebody died or something from the fight it was going to all be her fault and fuck! Fuck, fuck, fuck! He was pounding on the wall, that was what it was, he didn’t even have to get up, he was pounding on the bedroom wall next to the bathroom and yelling out her name.

She couldn’t really hear it exactly, it was muffled, like, “An-ee-ah, An-ee-ah!”

She yelled out, “Hold on, I’ll be there in a sec!” Which was like what? Why was she even saying that? She wasn’t going back in there, he was a fucking rapist, but she had to say something, she had to stall him.

“An-ee-ah!”

“Hold on!”

“Andrea!”

“Hold on!”

“Is that you?”

Oh, what?

“Who is that?” she called out, because she realized it was in the hall right next to her.

“It’s Tim!”

“And Maya!”

“Open up!” Tim called out.

“Okay, just a sec!” she called out.

“And Mike!”

She felt so stupid they had all come and even more stupid for pausing now that they were here but she had to at least check her hair in the mirror before opening the door, but that turned out to be a worse mistake so she just unlocked it. Tim immediately pushed in.

“Are you okay?” he demanded, not even saying hello, but Maya was there and Andrea hugged her and was suddenly crying super super hard, shaking like crazy, Maya hugging back but not crying, just saying nice stuff like, “Okay, it’s gonna be okay, it’s all gonna be okay now.” Mike was standing there doing nothing and Andrea didn’t even make eye contact with him.

The three of them led her out of the bathroom and Tim said, “this way,” but then Jonathan came out of the bedroom, just a towel around his waist, and Andrea sort of gave a little shriek, then stopped it with a hand at her mouth.

“You going somewhere?” he asked Andrea.

“She was just leaving,” Tim said.

Mike said, “Just heading out.”

“Nobody talking to you,” Jonathan said to the guys.

“Come on,” Maya said quietly to Andrea. “Let’s go.”

“Who is this guy?” Tim asked Andrea.

“Who the fuck are you?” Jonathan demanded.

Maya said, “Look, we don’t want any trouble. We’re just trying to get our friend home. She’s had too much to drink.”

Jonathan said, “No, she hasn’t.”

Tim said, “You’re blocking our path. Please move.”

Jonathan just laughed at that.

“We’re friends,” Mike said. He looked at Tim, then back at Jonathan, and added, “Of hers.”

Maya looked backward and asked Andrea, “Can we go around?”

But then Maya saw that Tim had pulled a giant knife from somewhere and was saying to the giant guy in the hallway, “I said, move.”

Jonathan immediately straightened up and sneered, and Andrea grabbed Maya tighter.

Mike said, “Tim, maybe put that away,” like not a question, but just saying it, firmly. Maya thought it was just the right way to say it.

It wasn’t exactly clear what was supposed to happen next. There was a very long second or two and then Jonathan shook his head and said, “Fucking freshmen,” and went back into the bedroom.

“Shit!” Mike said. “Let’s get out of here.” “I’m not done with that asshole,” Tim said, slipping the knife back into his boot. “Was he --” he looked at Andrea now.

She felt horrible. She wished he would look away already. God, she felt like such an idiot, her hair was still wet from the pool and she was holding her wet bra crumpled up in her fist. She had kept her underwear on, though, and it was soaking through her jeans, which was even stupider, she didn’t even want to look down there to see what that was looking like.

“Can we just go?” she asked quietly, looking at Maya.

“Definitely,” Maya said.

“What’s his name?” Tim asked. “Did he -- did he, like, do anything to you?”

Mike said, “Tim, maybe we should let Andrea decide what we do?”

Maya nodded at Mike gratefully.

Andrea felt like crying for about eight reasons. She said to Tim, “Can we just go? Nothing happened.”

“Nothing?” Tim asked. He felt stupid constantly asking the same thing over and over, but he also felt like just because she had said nothing happened didn’t mean it was true, people always denied that something happened the first time you asked them even if something actually had happened.

“Well, it wasn’t great,” Andrea said. “But nothing, like -- can we just go?”

“Let’s just go,” Mike said, but then he felt bad for saying it, because of guy solidarity, and if Tim’s guess was right and something had happened, then it was probably better if they dealt with it right away. So he said, “There’s a lot of sketchy people around here, we should probably sort this out later.”

Tim looked at him, looked toward the bedroom door that Jonathan had slipped behind, and shook his head. “Okay, let’s go.”

 

 

 

 

Everything’s Gonna Be Alright

 

Rachel what is going on???? I just talked to Maya’s mother. She says that the two of you are not there??

 

Mom, I’m sorry!! It’s really complicated.

 

Where are you, Rachel?

 

in a car. Outside of a party.

 

What? Whose car? What party?

 

Mom I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m trying to do the right thing

 

Tell me where you are

 

Here comes Tim he’s going to drive us back right now I’m really sorry

 

Rachel do not get in that car

 

I’m safe mom I’m sorry I’ll be back at mayas really soon i love u

 

“Hi, Jerry,” he heard, quietly, and somehow in his stupidity he didn’t recognize at first where it was coming from. He thought it was the phone.

“911, what is your emergency?”

“Um, hold on?” Jerry said into the phone.

He looked down. Sabrina’s eyelashes were fluttering, and she had a sort of half smile.

He said, “Are you okay? Are you alive?”

She said, “Um, Jerry?”

“This is 911, are you in danger?” the phone called out.

“Um, no? I guess not? Can I -- can I call you back?” realizing as he said it that he sounded so, so stupid. He hung up.

“Um, Jerry?”

“Yes? Sabrina?” He looked at her, lying there, on the bathroom floor, and had no idea what she was going to say next, but he had a feeling he wasn’t going to like it. She seemed to be pretty much waking up now.

She opened her eyes fully and pushed her hair out of her face, then said, “Jerry?”

“Yeah? Yes, Sabrina?”

“Can you get your hand off my chest?”

“Oh! Oh, shit! Sorry!” He pulled it back like his hand was burning.

Sabrina felt a little smile coming over her.

“It’s not that big a deal,” she said. “What are you doing here? Were you calling me?”

“Me? No, I was -- no, I texted you a bunch, though.”

She looked around, but she couldn’t remember where her phone was. “I think it’s charging, I ran out of battery,” she said.

“Yeah,” he said, then stupidly added, “I do that sometimes.”

She said, “What did you say?”

“What?”

“In the texts.”

“Oh. Oh, there. In the texts.”

“Why are you breathing hard?”

“I ran. I … look, just -- you don’t have to read all that, all those texts.”

“But basically.”

“But basically -- listen, do you want to get up, maybe?”

She sighed and said, “Um, yes and no?”

He said, “You should probably get off the floor. You’re on the bathroom floor.”

She nodded, which looked weird from a sideways position on the floor. “Yeah. I think I fell asleep.”

“Oh. Okay. You didn’t…?”

She waited, then said, “Didn’t what?”

“Did you -- look, I’m sorry, but I thought that maybe you had taken something? Like, because you weren’t feeling good?”

She thought for a while. Thinking seemed to be going really slowly. “You mean like, pills? To, like, kill myself?”

He swallowed. “Did you?”

“No.”

“Oh. Oh, God, I’m sorry. I just took -- I guess I took it the wrong way.”

She said, “Actually, no, you didn’t, not so much.” She sighed. “I mean, I think about it, to be honest.” A tear slid down her cheek but she also smiled a little and wiped it away.

He said, “Oh.”

She was surprised she had told him. Maybe it had something to do with him asking about it, or coming over to see if she was okay. He was sweet.

She said, “Were you calling 911?”

“Yeah.”

“I’m not dead,” she said.

“Yeah, no,” he said.

“Not yet,” she said.

He didn’t laugh. He wasn’t sure if it was a joke. He said, “Do you want to get up?”

“Yeah, okay.”

He put out his hands and she tried to find the strength to get up. She grabbed his hands and slowly got all the way up.

“I’m sorry my house is such a mess,” she said. She walked into the hallway. He followed, not knowing what else to do.

She gave a half smile. “I’m sorry I’m such a mess.”

He didn’t know what to say to that, so he said, “Where is everybody?”

“Who? Oh, my mom and Blaine?”

“I guess.”

“Out.”

“Okay. I’m just saying, like, if there’s a problem? Maybe you should tell your mom?”

“Oh, God no,” Sabrina said. “That is, like, the problem.”

“Oh,” Jerry said.

“My room, ta da,” she said, displaying her hand toward it, palm up. “I know it’s tiny and messy, you don’t have to say it’s nice.”

“It’s tiny and messy,” he said, and for the first time she laughed.

“I guess come in?” she said. “There’s nowhere to sit.”

She sat down on her bed and he sat next to her. She grabbed her phone and said, “Look at all these texts. I think I have a stalker.”

“What, no that’s --”

“I’m just kidding, Jerry.”

“Oh. Yeah, I know.”

She read through the texts. Jerry thought about stuff, including mostly A. The fact that she had basically admitted she was suicidal and B. The fact that she had basically said that it was her mother’s fault, so now she probably wasn’t going to tell anyone except maybe him, and C. The fact that was sitting on a bed with her and even thought it was totally, totally inappropriate he was getting a, like, physical response, or whatever?

She said, “I’m so tired.”

He said, “I was thinking, maybe you should call someone?”

“Someone who?”

“Like, because you feel bad?”

She thought for a while. “You mean a psychiatrist, like?”

“Oh. I guess that. But I was thinking a hotline, like? They had those people, in health?”

She thought, and then said, “I was probably absent.”

“Yeah, I guess.” He tapped at his phone. “You could call these people? Here, you can use my phone.”

“I don’t want to call a suicide hotline, Jerry.”

He still had his phone held out, so he just sort of left it there, hanging in the air.

 

“That was intense!” Mike said, pulling and pulling on the handle of the back door of the car, which was locked.

“It wasn’t that big a deal,” Tim said, glancing back up to the house.

“Dude!” Malik said, running up to them. “Andrea, you alright?”

“What? Malik? Yeah, nothing…”

Maya said, “Hey, Malik.”

Andrea thought: God, now you show up?

“Malik,” Tim said.

“Malik. What’s good?” Mike asked, then immediately regretted it because it sounded like he was trying too hard, he knew that, but he couldn’t take it back now, plus it sounded like he wasn’t taking this whole crisis seriously, but he was, but was it really a crisis, or basically when you got down to it was it just Andrea had just gotten drunk?

“Oh, my God!” Rachel said, jumping out of the car. “We have to go right now, Maya!”

“What? What is it?”

“What the fuck?” Tim demanded.

“My mom is freaking out!”

“Shit,” Maya said.

“Oh,” Tim said.

“Can I get a ride?” Malik asked.

“What happened to Ray?” Andrea asked.

“Exactly!” Malik said, kind of hyperventilating. “I think he ditched us. His car’s not here, he isn’t answering texts…”

“Who’s Ray?” Mike asked.

Tim said, “What happened?”

Malik said, “There was this fight and these racist dudes who own the house were all up in Ray’s face and then Vinh showed up and flashed a piece!”

“Fucking Vinh,” Tim said immediately. “Way to escalate shit.”

Mike thought, you flashed a knife, but didn’t say anything.

Maya said to Malik and Tim, “Can we get out of here already?”

“Yeah,” Tim agreed, running around behind the car, but Maya, thinking fast, said, “Here, I’ll drive.”

Tim stopped. “You sure?”

“You don’t have to,” Rachel said quickly, maybe too quickly, like she didn’t want to insult Maya, but her driving?

“No, it’s my mom’s car, I should do it,” Maya said, calculating. There were five seats, two up front, three in back, and with Malik and Andrea now there were six people, which meant that someone would have to sit on a lap and that would obviously be a girl and Maya did not want to have to end up on Malik’s lap and definitely definitely did not want to have to end up on Mike’s lap, so if she drove that would be someone else’s problem. A girl could sit on a girl, that was normal, but if you insisted that it had to be that way then people would take it weird like you were avoiding sitting on somebody’s lap for a few minutes and that would be even weirder, and all she had to do to avoid all that was drive.

Tim gave her the keys. Rachel sat up in the front passenger seat where she had been and Mike and Malik got in the back.

Andrea said, “Tim, can I sit in your lap or something, we need to crunch in?”

“Not a problem,” he said.

All Andrea knew was that she didn’t want to sit on Mike or Malik’s lap, those were way complicated, and she didn’t consider that you could sit on Rachel’s lap in the front until it was too late and they were all in and she was on one side with Malik next to her looking scared and Mike on the other side looking out the window away from her for obvious reasons of avoiding her and Maya both, and Tim just sitting there under her pretending like he didn’t have a boner. She didn’t even feel like dealing with any of that right now or any more, goddamn guys and all their -- that guy in the house had been -- she didn’t even want to think about that kind of thing any more.

Suddenly she started crying, pretty hard.

The guys all just looked super uncomfortable. Rachel reached back and pet her head. Maya turned around a few times and said stuff like, “Everything’s gonna be alright.”

 

 

Sabrina was crying hard, all of a sudden. “I don’t want …” she said, between crying, and Jerry put a hand on her shoulder, so the just kind of collapsed into him and he held onto her and she said, “I don’t want…” and he said, “Yeah, okay,” and then she said, “… I’m so tired,” and he said, “I know, I know,” thinking about what the hell did he know, he had no idea what was going on, really.

Eventually she stopped crying and was sort of hiccuping every now and then, leaning back against the wall next to the bed, exhausted, Jerry leaning next to her. She had wiped a whole bunch of tears and snot on his shoulder but he was like, okay, whatever. There were no posters or pictures on the walls, just a kind of broken bamboo shade thing on the window and the bed and a little dresser thing with a bunch of girl clothes all over the place.

Sabrina took a big breath and said, “I guess I’m not that happy a person, Jerry.”

“Yeah, I think I get that.”

“Do you? I mean, you always seem so happy.”

“Do I?”

“So much.”

“I never really thought about it.”

“How do you do it?”

“I don’t know. It’s -- it’s not like something I think about. How come -- I guess, how come do you suppose you’re not that happy?”

“Long story.”

“Yeah.”

“Long, long story.”

“I don’t mind listening to it.”

“No, it’s not your problem. You’re sweet, coming here and everything. Nobody else did.”

“Did you text other people? I guess they’re all at some party?”

“Yeah, no, I didn’t really. I wasn’t thinking too straight. I was super tired. Still am.”

“Yeah.”

“I need to lie down,” she said.

“Oh, okay.” He stood up.

She stretched out on the bed. She wanted to get rid of her stupid pants and sweater but he was still there so she just lay out and closed her eyes.

He was heading for the door when she said, “Jerry?”

“Yeah?”
“Do you think you could stay a little while longer? I’m really lonely.”

“Oh. Um. Yeah.”

He sat back down on the edge of the bed.

“I’m scared, too, I guess.”

“Yeah, I get that.”

“Do you think -- if this is weird you don’t have to do it -- but do you think maybe you could, like, lie down next to me and we could kind of cuddle? Just that? Not if you’re not comfortable.”

“No, no, it’s … yeah, I can.”

She looked at him gratefully.

He said, “I guess I’ll take off my shoes.”

She said, “Okay. Just for a little while, because …” and then she was crying again. It was really hard to stop sometimes.

Jerry lay down next to her and put an arm around her, her face kind of buried in his chest. She thought it was kind of awkward because basically they weren’t that good of friends in the first place but still it was really nice that someone was there.

Jerry lay there, thinking, what’s supposed to happen now?

 

Andrea was crying harder, she couldn’t really stop it somehow, and Rachel kept petting her and saying nice things and Maya, too, and the guys were all looking awkward. Tim was thinking, let’s get the fuck out of here, but he also didn’t want exactly to not have Andrea on his lap, but that was stupid, it was just for a ride, it wasn’t like that, except that he couldn’t exactly not think about it and her pants were wet for some reason? Plus she smelled like a girl and she kept crying and moving around and that somehow made it all worse, and he felt so stupid for not knowing if he should, like, hug her or comfort her or something, she was on his lap not Rachel’s or whatever, but no, that was really stupid, she just needed a place to sit in the car, obviously he shouldn’t, she wouldn’t even want him touching her, except that she actually did ask him and not anyone else if she could sit on his lap, but did that really mean anything? Obviously not, God, he was so overreacting, God he was dumb. So dumb. So so dumb.

Andrea sort of nodded to Maya and Rachel and they stopped petting her while she tried to dry her face with her sleeves. Maya started the car and just before she pulled out she saw flashing, and realized it was a police car.

“Shit!” she said.

“What?” Rachel asked.

“Police! Shit! What do I do?”

Everyone else turned around to look back through the window.

“What’s the problem?” Tim asked.

“I don’t have a license!”

“I know, but that doesn’t mean they know that. They’re not stopping you.”

Maya watched for a moment. The cop car pulled over near them but no one seemed to be heading over, at least not yet.

“Roll on, po-po,” Malik said in a fake gangsta voice, but no one laughed. It was too real.

“There’s another one,” Mike said.

“Jesus,” Rachel said, “there’s two more up ahead, look!”

Everyone turned back, their faces turning blue and red with the flashing.

“Just go,” Tim said. “You didn’t do anything wrong.”

“I can’t drive right in front of all these cops!”

You can’t drive right without cops, Rachel thought. God, just get me home safely already!

“Well, we can’t just sit here,” Malik said.

“Why not?” Mike asked, trying to stick up for Maya.

“I have to get home!” Rachel said.

“We all do,” Andrea said, feeling like what the fuck? She was the one who had pretty much been raped almost and Rachel was acting like such a drama queen, what, was there some AP test going on tonight or what?

“I guess I can just go.”

“Just go, like normal,” Tim said. “Signal.”

“Right, signal.”

“Then just go.”

“Okay, I’m going for it,” Maya said, trying to get up courage.

“They’re not here for us,” Mike said.

“Yeah, they didn’t come to arrest your ass for underage driving,” Malik said. “I think they got bigger shit to worry about.”

“Oh!” Rachel said. “I think they’re here because of that party!”

No one else said anything as Maya maneuvered the car into the road, insanely slowly as far as Tim was concerned, she was going to attract attention by going too slow, if anything.

“Did … everyone else already know that?” Rachel asked meekly.

“Pretty much,” Malik said. “Bunch of shit going down at that party. I don’t even know if Ray is still in there.”

Maya felt like she was tiptoeing, as multiple more cop cars came up the street but she headed away from the house slowly.

“I’ll bet someone called in the weapon,” Tim said.

“Maybe also underage drinking?” Mike asked, sort of at Andrea.

“Obviously,” she said.

Malik checked his phone again. No word from Ray.

Rachel suddenly said, “Shit! I forgot to tell you to turn! Maya!”

“What?” Maya said, startled.

“You’re supposed -- here! Turn here!”

Tim shouted, “No, not --”

There was an extremely loud bang and Mike barely saw anything as his head slammed into the seat ahead of him and his body against the door and then there was a weird slowing down, he could hear screeching and a lot of screaming and he realized he was sitting up and Maya was kind of lost inside a huge gray bag thing, that must be the airbag, it must be have been an accident, and Andrea was kind of halfway across Malik and into the front seat like she had dived, she must have flown off of Tim’s lap, and Mike realized they had finally stopped, and Malik looked at Mike and seemed okay and they both looked over at Tim and there was just blood everywhere, all over his head, and Mike tried to find his buckle, his seatbelt to unbuckle and try to help, Tim looked unconscious or worse, and Mike just kept trying, he kept looking for it and he couldn’t find it and Tim’s face was all bloody like in some horror movie and Mike just couldn’t find the goddamned buckle and he saw that Maya’s face was all bruised, it was turned sideways toward him and she looked awful and she looked at him and he tried to smile but it came out like a cough and finally, finally he found the buckle and it went click.

 

 

 

 

Early in the Morning

 

Jerry woke up three times in the night. One time he was totally confused and kind of jammed up against the wall and he realized that he was in Sabrina’s bed because obviously she was lying there, asleep, so duh it was her bed. He must have fallen asleep after she asked him to stay and then now it was the middle of the night. He panicked because he had never told his dad so he quickly texted him that he was staying at Tim’s and sorry sorry sorry that he had forgot to tell him, but his dad was chill, way too chill actually, it made Jerry feel all guilty, but after that Jerry fell back asleep. Then about an hour later probably he woke up again, super cold and trying to figure out how to get some of the blanket without bothering Sabrina, but every time he practically twitched or anything she almost woke up, she was a super light sleeper or maybe not always, maybe him being there made her that way but he had to keep super still which actually helped him probably fall asleep again because usually he would have grabbed his phone or played his Xbox or something if he couldn’t fall asleep, but he just had to lie there on his back and pretty soon he was asleep again.

The third time he woke up was because Sabrina had gotten up. She went out but it was still the middle of the night so it was probably bathroom or something so he just tried to figure out how to get comfortable before she came back, this time under the covers thank God. When she came back she had put some kind of whitish pajamas on, he could hardly see but they were sort of glowy in the dark, and then she slid in next to him and she was quiet and he was quiet until she whispered, “Are you shivering?” And he whispered back, “Kinda, yeah, I was cold before but now it’s fine.”

They lay there on their sides, facing each other sort of but he couldn’t see too great, just mostly hear her breathing and sort of feel it on his face.

That went on for a while and he thought maybe she was asleep and then she whispered, “Jerry?”
He whispered, “Yeah?”

“Do you want to kiss me?”

Jerry said, “Yeah, I do,” and almost did, but then said, “But is it a good idea? I mean, you had kind of a weird night, I guess?”

“Yeah,” she admitted.

“And I don’t want to take advantage or anything,” Jerry whispered.

She moved her head a tiny bit, maybe nodding, he figured.

He tried to figure out if what he had said was mean to her somehow or the wrong thing to say or what. She was quiet for a while. He thought that maybe he had hurt feelings. Like basically a lot.

After a while she said, “Jerry?
“Yeah?”

“If I tell you that I’m OK would you want to kiss me?”

He didn’t think for long. “Yeah,” he said. “Yeah.”

She said, “I’m not OK, though.”

“Yeah,” he said.

“Kiss me anyway,” she said, but before he could say anything she was kissing him, super super lightly at first, like you could barely feel her lips, they were like barely there. After like three or four they stopped, breathing a little, and he could tell she was waiting for something.

He whispered, “I think you’re the most beautiful girl on the planet.”

She took a deep breath, like she hadn’t been expecting that or something? And then she whispered, “I think you’re the most amazingly nice and awesome guy on the planet.”

He whispered, “Cool,” but then she was kissing him again and this time it was like, woah, like deep kissing, and then she put her arm around him so he could tell he kind of had permission, possibly, to try to do other, like, stuff, so he put his hand on her shoulder and just kind of pet it like she was a dog for a while. And they were totally kissing, and then she made it super simple, she just sat up and took off her pajama top, and then pulled his T-shirt up so he knew to pull it off, and then everything started happening all over the place and it was like for real the best thing ever.

 

 

 

 

The Hospital

 

Shit was completely crazy in the emergency room. Rachel could hardly keep track, it felt like two minutes or two years since the car accident but she was somehow in a room with with Andrea on one bed and Maya on another and Rachel could hardly stand to look at them but also could hardly stand not to, it felt like being the worst friend in the world not to be at their side, she kept trying because she was fine and had basically nothing else to do, but the doctor or nurse or somebody kept saying to sit down and the boys were also in there somewhere but she didn’t know where, they seemed mostly okay, but then every second when she thought that she’d immediately think oh, shit! and remember the accident. Andrea was really bloody, she was getting cleaned up now and Maya had been screaming, her face was all swollen and Rachel herself was shaking but the paramedics had checked her and told her she was fine and just go home but she had insisted on coming along, that was what friends did, but she was also in such deep shit with her mom, probably, she kept texting her to update on where they were being taken and her mom was activating the, like, parent network, but nobody was here yet and it was up to Rachel to be the, like, support person for everybody and God, she wished they had just never, never, ever gone to that stupid party.

 

Andrea felt like complete shit, that was all she could think, like, she wasn’t in that much terrible terrible pain? But just after all that drinking and that weirdass party and that asshole guy Jonathan and then, after all that, a fucking car accident? Fucking seriously? It was like, what the living fuck, God, why do you have it so much out for me?

 

Maya’s head didn’t hurt so much now, they had given her something in the tube in her arm and she was feeling like she didn’t need to scream so much, she felt stupid about that, but then she felt super super completely stupid about the accident, why why why didn’t she look or let someone else drive or something? And her mom was going to fucking kill her, oh my God, she stole the car in the first place and then to smash it up and almost kill everyone? It was like, oh God, let this next month just somehow go by, can I fast forward please please please I hate my life so much right now. So much.

 

The doctor said to Andrea, “Well, that was a lot of blood, but I think we’ve got you cleaned up pretty well.” She seemed so proud of herself and Andrea was like, well goody for you, you clean up blood so great, good job. You go, Meredith Grey.

The doctor was pretty young and tbh pretty hot probably all the guy doctors were into her. She typed on her computer for a while and then said, “The skin on the forehead is very thin. Whenever you get a laceration, it bleeds all over the face for a while, but it’s actually not that serious a long term concern.”

Andrea said, “OK.”

The doctor said, “How do you feel other than that?”

“My whole body feels kind of bruised up.”

“Well, that’s because it is, of course. And you’re coming out of shock, so you’ll start feeling more of it. But we’ll get you some painkillers as soon as I get a toxicity report.”

Andrea thought about that. “Do my parents have to see that?”
The doctor said, “I don’t have to offer it to them, but parents have a right to all of a minor’s medical records. Is that a problem?”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean, will there be negative consequences if your parents learn about your health?”

Andrea smirked. “I was drunk and stoned at a party, yeah there’s gonna be fucking consequences.”

The doctor smiled an annoying little smile. “Fair enough. It’s just that I wanted to ask you another question here and I just want to know if you can expect to have support from your parents.”

Andrea sighed. “I mean, they’re parents? They’ll be all mad at me for messing up, but they’re not, you know, gonna beat me? If that’s what you’re asking?”

“Understood. That helps. Because there is a question I do want to ask before we get your medication going. Is there a chance you could be pregnant?”

Rachel, overhearing the question, looked away, embarrassed.

Andrea saw her turn, and surprised herself by suddenly crying softly, silently. She nodded at the doctor.

The doctor pulled the curtain all the way around and said quietly, “We’ll take a test. Let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves,” but at that moment Andrea knew, she just knew, and it was like, it was like … the whole fucked up world that was so fucked up just got even more fucked up and now what? Now what? Now what?

 

 

 

 

Scattered

 

What was there to say? Maya didn’t know what to say. Nobody knew what to say. Nobody knew how to talk to anyone any more. At lunch it was like everyone had to scatter in all directions. Almost a month had passed and nobody was talking to anyone or doing anything together.

Maya went to lunch alone with Rachel most days nowadays, but instead of the old spots they usually got something from the vending machines and then went to the gym to bump some volleyballs. It wasn’t insanely fun? But it was okay enough.

After she had gotten her usual Funyuns and Dr. Pepper and Rachel had gotten her usual granola bar which supposedly was healthy but wasn’t and her Diet Coke, they headed off for the gym. They were walking by the ugly MLK mural that didn’t even look like him when about twenty people away they saw Andrea headed toward them. Maya had already made eye contact, she didn’t want to look away, but Andrea wasn’t looking away and Rachel could tell -- this all took like half a second --and Rachel said, “Hey, are you going to eat all those Funyuns?” and Maya was like, “You hate them, you’re so above junk food,” but she knew that Rachel had said it just so that they could have something to say until Andrea passed by, which she did, walking super fast like she had somewhere to go.

“It’s so sad,” Rachel said. “I mean, about you and her.”

“It’s not that sad,” Maya said.

“No, I mean, it’s not your fault that it’s sad, obviously, but I don’t know, didn’t you two guys --”

“Yeah, but obviously.”

“Yeah,” Rachel said.

“I mean,” Maya said, “It’s not like I care what she does, or what she did or whatever?”

Rachel thought, yeah you do.

“But it’s just that she could have told me about it?” Maya said. “I don’t know, does that make any sense?”

“Yeah, no, completely,” Rachel said. “I don’t think friends do that to each other.”

Maya nodded, then said, “But he -- I mean -- we weren’t going out.”

“I know, you never said you were, but everybody knew that you and Mike had, like, something, especially Andrea knew. Especially.”

“That’s what pisses me off the most,” Maya said. “I mean, I’m over it, but what used to piss me off is how she could basically get with any guy in the school and she had to pick him.”

“It’s just -- yeah,” Rachel said.

“Honestly?” Maya said, “He’s not even that cute. Like, I liked him and everything? But it’s not like he’s Taylor Lautner.”

“I know, right?”

“And it’s not that I’m slut-shaming --”

“No, obviously not,” Rachel said.

“It’s just that she could have, like, gone on a date with him or whatever, but they barely knew each other and then go straight to doing that?”

Rachel jumped over some trash in the way. She pulled her hair behind her ears and asked, “Do you think it’s kind of double-standardsy?”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, you, me, and everybody in the school basically knows that she got pregnant and it’s all like she was the only one involved.”

“Yeah, no, for sure,” Maya said. “He could have kept it in his pants.”

“He should have.”

“I mean, I’m not being in charge of moral judgments for everybody,” Maya said.

“It’s just so stupid,” Rachel said.

“Exactly.”

“Like, how have you not been listening to health class lectures for a thousand years?”
“I know, right?” Maya nodded, then added, “But it’s not just that. It’s everybody.”

“I know,” Rachel said. “Everything kind of sucks right now. Whatever happened to Quad Squad?”

Maya sighed. “It’s like, I also feel so bad for Sabrina.”

“But what can we do about it?”

“We could go visit some time, I guess, wherever Oakmont is, maybe I could get my mom to drive me.”

“Maybe,” Rachel said.

Maya kind of half laughed and said, “Yeah, not like she’s going to let me drive myself there. Or anywhere. Ever.”

“Did she say that?”

“Honestly? I haven’t even asked.”

“Smart.”

“Yeah, Imma wait until I’m like 103 and then ask if I can try to get my permit.”

“That’s a patient plan,” Rachel said.

“She’ll be like, no, you crashed the car when you were 15, you need to think about your choices.”

“Maybe when you’re 104.”

“I can’t believe they took her to Oakmont just because she and Jerry …”

“Yeah, I know,” Rachel said. “But it’s not just that, it’s all their family.”

“Yeah, they’re way fucked up,” Maya said.

“I know, but I guess she likes her grandma in Oakmont better,” Rachel said. “Or at least she doesn’t get as stressed?”

“She had to promise to not kill herself,” Maya said. “She snapchatted me this contract she had to sign.”

Rachel sighed. “It’s so scary, that she has to do that.”

“I know.”

“Do you think Jerry is also getting away with double standards?”

Maya thought. “It’s just weird. I don’t know what to think. Like apparently he saved her life?”

“He didn’t save anything,” Rachel said. “She wasn’t --”

“No, I know, but he went over there thinking she was, right? And then he gets there, and she’s not dead or anything, so what does he do, when she’s all vulnerable?”

Rachel said, “Yes and no. I mean, maybe it is the same thing? I wasn’t there? But it feels like -- I don’t know. Maybe you’re right.”

“Maybe it’s worse,” Maya said. “Mike and Andrea, whatever, neither one of them is crazy, except --”

“Except Andrea --”

“OK, but neither is like official psychology crazy and so if they want to like, do whatever, I guess that’s their business?”

“Not when he and you --”

“I know, but never mind that for a second, but Jerry could’ve so easily just called the cops or something --”

“He said he did, he told Tim that later.”

“OK, but then he just, like, took advantage of her.”

“I know,” Rachel said.

“It’s kind of evil,” Maya said.

“I really didn’t think Jerry was like that,” Rachel said, agreeing after thinking about it.

“Tim, though,” Maya said.

“Don’t even,” Rachel said.

“I heard he’s going to military school or something.”

“Something like that.”

They were sitting on a bench and now they both realized it. They always ended up talking too much. Rachel sighed and then suddenly said, “Hey, are we going to go bump some volleyballs?” She was a bit extra enthusiastic because she felt like she had been improving extremely fast and had sort of practiced at home and wanted to show Maya, but then immediately she felt guilty for always making it about herself.

 

 

 

 

Fuck Everyone

 

Fuck Mike. Fuck Jerry. Fuck all of them. Fuck Malik. It’s like, if you can’t be there when your homie is getting beat on, then what the fuck kind of friend are you?

After the party Tim had to get twenty-two stitches from something cutting him on the leg, he didn’t even know what, maybe even his own knife, it was hard to tell what the fuck was going on in the hallway at the end, plus major stitches on his head, he was in the hospital for like three days, but the worst of it was the concussions. He had the worst fucking headache for about a century it felt like and they wouldn’t give him any pills that did anything and they kept testing his vision which was doubled some of the time, which made him fucking sick. And the whole time they wouldn’t answer his basic questions, his mom and dad kept coming and trying to be nice but also pissed off at him for getting into a fight and his dad said that even if the other guy is being a jerk you don’t do that, meaning basically the knife, which Tim had used in self defense, and Tim was like are you kidding me, thinking it not saying, are you kidding me, you always told me that you stand up for yourself, you don’t let some asshole pick on a woman, you said that, and now you get mad at me for doing exactly what you said, okay, fine, I see how it is, but not saying any of that, just lying there in the bed burning with pissed-offedness. And nobody would answer for him, none of the doctors would tell him the main thing, which was would this make him not be able to enlist, they kept saying they’d have to wait and see, and other doctor bullshit that just meant: shut up, kid.

Nobody was saying anything on text just how are you doing and only Jerry came to visit and only once and all he would talk about was how he and Sabrina had apparently done it or something, he wouldn’t exactly say, but then Sabrina had been moved out of town, which was like, duh, what do you expect her parents to do when their daughter is fucking freaking out and doing it with random guys, thinking all that, not saying it, because obviously this was Tim’s best friend and he didn’t want to be a dick about it even if that’s exactly what Jerry deserved.

But nobody else even visited or said anything and Tim got the feeling that a lot of shit had gone down at the party and after, but nobody was saying anything and he did not, he did not want to go asking everybody, to be that guy who was like, oh, tell me who said what, and are people mad at me and all that girl shit. Like, fuck it. If you want to be my friend, have my back, otherwise get the fuck out my way.

Fucking Vinh was the only one who got it, even though he was a major psycho asshole, he and some of his guys had found out that Tim was getting whaled on at the party and they had jumped the other guys and gotten them off Tim and basically saved his ass and even called the cops and the ambulance, like why would Vinh ever call a cop, and Tim totally owed them, but he wasn’t even friends with those guys, those guys were all kind of psycho and into hard drugs and stuff like that, a couple of them were probably dealers.

And then when Tim was back at school everyone was being weird, like Tim had no reason whatsoever to talk to Mike ever again, and he needed to talk to Malik to figure out where he had been, but for some reason none of them was hanging out. And the girls weren’t hanging out with him, or even with each other, which was like, what the fuck happened?

He saw Vinh a couple of times and Tim kind of nodded and one time said, “Hey, thanks,” and Vinh said, “Yeah, I got you,” but not much more than that, and Tim didn’t exactly love being in Vinh’s debt but that was kind of how it had played out.

Then of course there was that Jonathan motherfucker. Tim hadn’t seen him at all at school and he wasn’t sure if the guy even went to their school, and he wasn’t about to ask anyone, but he kept asking himself what he would do if he saw the guy now. And what would Jonathan do? Where was this going, exactly?

Nowhere good.

 

 

 

 

Yay, a Little Bit

 

Monica was super excited because Andrea had said how about after class we could hang out or something like at lunch, and nobody really ever said stuff like that to Monica. It was usually more like she might end up in a little group at lunch or something with a couple of the girls but nobody on purpose, so this was so cool. Andrea was her partner in Spanish and they had kind of had fun? So maybe because of that, but it was super exciting. Andrea was super fun and super super popular. She had been gone from school for a week a while ago and then she had stopped hanging out with her usual friends, which was not Monica’s business at all, she knew that, but it was hard not to notice when the prettiest girl in the school said do you want to do something and think that maybe after all these years something was maybe changing, maybe high school actually was going to be different than elementary school when everybody teased you for being fat, and middle school, that was the worst, maybe it was going to be like her dad always said, God, he said it way too much, Monica, some day the whole world is going to see how wonderful you are, just like I do, it was so embarrassing when he said that but really he was sweet, but maybe all of that was actually starting to happen for her? So yay, a little bit.

Monica stood next to the top of the stairs, outside of the classroom. She didn’t want to stand just outside the class because everybody was leaving but she didn’t want to walk too far away or down the stairs because then Andrea might not see her, or forget that she said that they were going to hang out, or maybe not exactly forget but remember that she didn’t actually want to hang out with Monica, so maybe a little friendly reminder of her just standing there sort of pretending to look through her backpack was the best bet.

Andrea came over, checking her phone, and said, “So, you want to hang out, or whatever?”

“Yeah, OK? If you’re not doing anything else?”

“No, nothing much.”

“Gosh, well, OK,” Monica said, trying to think, “What do you want to do?”

“I don’t know. Eat.”

“I’ve got a sandwich and a yogurt. I could share some of that with you if you don’t have any?”

Andrea blinked, and then looked sort of mad, or confused. Monica thought that it was possibly because of all the people moving around and everything?

“Or we could go to the DQ or the 7-11,” Andrea said.

“Oh,” Monica said. “Well, sure. I mean, I’ll walk with you, I don’t really want to buy anything.”

“Well, it’s all good,” Andrea said, “We don’t have to go anywhere.”

“Oh, you know what? Is it Wednesday?”

“Yeah, why?”

“We could go see Eric!”

“Who’s Eric?”

“Oh, you don’t know Eric? Oh, he’s the best. Oh, come on. You have to meet Eric.”

“Where are we going?”

“I’ll show you, there’s always food, like pizza and stuff, do you like pizza?”

Andrea half laughed. “Hell, yes, bitch, where my pizza at?”

“Oh, my God, you’re so funny. Come on. I’ll show you.” She led the way down the stairs and said, “I love, love, love that top, Andrea.”

“It’s Brandy, yeah, it’s OK.”

“You just have the best figure,” Monica said.

Andrea didn’t say anything for a second and Monica worried that maybe she had offended her somehow. Then Andrea said, “Thanks? I guess.”

“Were you sick?”

“What?”

“I mean a few weeks ago. When you were out. You totally caught up though in Spanish, you’re super fast.”

Andrea said, “Who’s Eric?”

“Oh, I’ve known him since like forever, here, it’s Ms. Stacy’s room, don’t you know her?”

“Oh, shit,” Andrea said, “Is that the retard-- I mean, the, like, the, how do you say it, the slow kids, basically? Is that where we’re going?”

“Yeah!” Monica laughed. “You don’t have to be scared you’re saying it wrong. I used to say developmentally disabled, but I think now you’re supposed to say developmentally delayed, but don’t worry, you’ll be fine.”

“Okay,” Andrea said, and then didn’t say anything else, and Monica was worried that she was being boring or something. She stopped and said, “By the way, I know you’re just hanging out with me because your friends are mad at you, but I don’t mind, I think it’s fun.” She walked up the three little steps to the classroom.

Andrea said, “I’m not --”

“Hey, Ms. Stacy!” Monica called out. She pulled open the door and there was in fact pizza and a few of the kids were there including Eric. She walked back, grabbed Andrea’s hand and brought her over to where Eric was sitting at the crafts table and said, “Eric, I want you to meet a friend of mine. Eric, this is Andrea. Andrea, this is Eric.”

“Hey,” Andrea said.

“I’m pleased to meet you!” Eric sort of shouted, which made Monica kind of laugh, and she said, “Indoor voice, Eric. Hey, what are you doing?”

He said, “I’m making God’s eyes.”

“Oh, how fun!” Monica said. “Can we join you?”

“It’s fun,” Eric said. “Miss Tyler showed me.”

“Come on, Andrea,” Monica said, “Let’s make something together.”

“Yeah, OK, I guess,” Andrea said. She put her backpack down and joined them at the table. They both grabbed a slice of pepperoni pizza and some yarn and sticks, although neither one of them exactly remembered how to start.

“You’re pretty,” Eric said to Andrea.

“Thank you,” Andrea said.

“You’re a good looking guy yourself,” Monica said.

“That’s not true!” Eric shouted.

“Indoor voice,” Andrea said.

 

 

 

 

That Guy

 

Andrea never even told him. Mike had to find out from somebody else. Somebody he didn’t even really know. He was walking between classes when two girls he barely knew came over to him and asked, “Can we ask you a question?”

And he said, “I guess, like what about?”

And one of them said, “Did you get Andrea pregnant?”

And he stopped walking, and looked at them, seeing them for the first time. They were kind of opposite, one tall and thin and full of acne and the other short and kind of round, but right in that moment he was thinking only that he wanted to kill them both.

“That’s what people are saying,” the round one said. “That she had to have an abortion.”

He stared at her, trying to understand who the hell she was and what the fuck she was saying. “Go … away,” he finally said, really quiet.

“What?” the skinny one asked.

And the other one said, “Is this, like, too personal?”

And Mike gave her a look, just this look of death, and they finally kind of got it, and they for some reason both looked surprised that he was pissed, and then they took off.

He felt like he was going to puke. He went home early, gave his parents some excuse. Then, later, once, he did puke. Not exactly puke, like nothing came out, but it felt like he was about to, all hunched over the toilet and feeling awful.

He didn’t even know what to say or do. He had no one he could ask, or talk to.

He thought about what to do for a long time. It was crazy. It was like -- he had never even really thought about that. Obviously, he had kind of thought about it that night, after the football game. But to tell the truth the whole incident had gone so quickly and really if everyone was being super honest, it hadn’t been that fun because he had been thinking about Maya during it. And later, when he was at home, he realized that Andrea had been, too -- thinking about Maya.

It was okay, him and Andrea, like there was physical pleasure and everything, but it was also kind of weird and lame. Nothing like that you imagine of love and everything like that was had happened between him and Andrea. Nobody said afterwards that was wonderful or I’ll never forget this moment or any of that movie shit. Nobody looked in anybody’s eyes. It was basically too dark in the park to see much, anyway. They barely kissed before.

Not that he was so stupid he didn’t know that girls get pregnant when you don’t kiss a lot but then have sex, but it seemed like what they had done was just such a really minor, stupid thing that somehow didn’t count. Like, the next day they hadn’t even said anything to each other. He had texted her once something like hey how’s it going, just to be cool about it, and she had texted back something like, I’m just fine, don’t worry about it. So he hadn’t.

They weren’t going out or anything. They weren’t boyfriend and girlfriend. They weren’t even really friends.

But now it was killing him. Was he that guy? He never wanted to be that guy.

He spent a whole bunch of time, days, maybe weeks, lying in his bed and trying to think of what to do.

He never wanted to be that guy, he was the exact opposite, if people really knew. He never wanted to be the guy who got a girl pregnant and then took off. He wanted to be the guy -- he was the guy who stuck around and did the right thing and took care of his responsibilities.

Except he wasn’t being that guy. He wasn’t being any kind of guy. He was hiding in his room and playing Minecraft, which he hadn’t even touched in like three years but right now was the only thing he could manage to do.

It could, he sometimes thought maybe, all be bullshit. The girls that told him, they could have just made it up. But then also, she could have gotten pregnant and not gotten an abortion. Maybe it was just because of the accident, she had just been in the hospital for car accident reasons, like Tim and Maya had been.

But he didn’t think so, not deep inside. People make up a lot of stuff, but how do two girls who don’t even know you find out that you got someone pregnant? Like, it wasn’t right.

He wanted to text Andrea, but what was he supposed to say? Hi, how are you? That would be such fake bullshit, and so inadequate compared to what was going on, or supposedly was going on.

No way he could text anything like, hey were you pregnant? Was it because of me? Did you get an abortion? That was just disgusting, to even think about asking that in text.

Or he could say, hey, can we meet, but then she would say no. Guaranteed. Like, she had already had weeks to text him and she hadn’t, and she could have herself asked him to meet or asked him to help pay for the abortion if that was how you did it, but he didn’t have any money, and he really didn’t want to kill a baby, even if people said it wasn’t doing that, but he didn’t want to have a women’s rights fight about it, but he didn’t want her to have it either actually, and shit, shit, shit. Everything sucked.

He was crying a lot nowadays. Just sitting and playing Minecraft and crying.

He could maybe ask someone else, someone in the old squad. The Quad Squad, what a laugh. A squad has your back when things get bad. Instead Tim had turned into a fucking psycho with a knife and Jerry had supposedly done something that made Sabrina freak out and she had left town and Maya and Rachel weren’t talking to him.

So what now?

 

 

 

 

Messed Up

 

Jerry’s dad got him a job even though he had to be 16, they paid under the table. It was really chill, he just had to clean up at the oil change place, like, that would sound bad to most people but he got to learn about how to change oil and tires and hang out with some pretty chill guys. Plus of course he was banking some coin and that was awesome. He wasn’t even spending it that much. There really wasn’t that much to spend it on.

It used to be he would have spent it all in a week going out with friends but obviously not right now.

Most days now instead of hanging out with anyone after school he was heading off to the shop, even when he didn’t need to. There were a couple of guys there and this one girl who were only a couple of years older and they were always making jokes and it was cool, except sometimes he wasn’t in a laughing mood because he was thinking about it all and he knew he would never forgive himself.

But anyways it was also cool because now he had more time on Friday nights to go to RC car shows with his dad, because nothing else was happening on Friday nights. Well, maybe stuff was happening on Friday nights? But nobody was telling him about it.

Nobody was telling him about anything. They weren’t talking to him. Nothing was happening on Insta. Tim was being kind of weird and Cole was on the track team, and Maya and the other girls from the old Q Squad were being super weird.

Well, or maybe he was the one who was weird. He was the one who had messed it all up.

He thought about her all the time, of course. Like, even when he was taking out the garbage at the shop he thought about her. Not because of taking the trash out, obviously, not that, but just that he was thinking about her all the time.

Maybe it was better this way? It was at least theoretically possible that she was way happier in her new house wherever it was, he forgot the name.

If she had stayed maybe they would have fought and stuff and not lasted and had to be each other’s exes. Kind of like Mike and Maya, whatever that was about. People took that stuff so seriously.

Jerry did, too. He totally knew that if Sabrina had stayed he would have totally been in love with her and been a really good boyfriend, but she had left and she hadn’t even said goodbye.

The guys at the shop said let it go, it doesn’t matter, but the girl, Brenda, said that you guys don’t know how it is, young love, you never get over it. Jerry knew they were all just messing with him but it still hurt.

But also his dad and him had gotten a new drone, which was sick, they flew it on this one Saturday like all day long and it was awesome. Really smooth controls and Jerry realized that he could definitely see being a photographer some day.

It was too bad about Sabrina, though. He had tried really pretty hard to fix that. Like, as best as he knew how. But it was kind of an epic fail. Maybe some things just never got fixed.

 

 

 

 

 

At the Busted Tree

 

EMERGENCY 911 MEET RIGHT AFTER SCHOOL AT THE BUSTED TREE ON THE WAY TO THE DQ YOU KNOW WHERE

 

“What the hell is this?” Maya asked Rachel.

“You got it too?” Rachel said. “What is going on with Karen?”

“Shh,” Tamara in front of them said.

Oh my God Tamara let it go, it’s health class, Rachel and Maya both thought. But they stopped talking and went to texting.

 

what do u think is going on????

 

I dont know why is Karen freaking

 

shes never like this

 

I know wtf should we ask naeli

 

ask her what

 

Like whats gong on

 

i feel like we should ask if karen is ok?

 

Imma ask

 

Its wierd she didnt group text ask her why

 

she say she fine just come to the tree

 

she wont say why

 

no

did u ask why she didnt group

 

no

 

 

Mike had an orthodontist appointment after school and he was probably going to have to get braces. He had kind of weakly argued with his parents about it, because he really didn’t want to, but they had insisted he at least go to the appointment. He didn’t feel like he could argue any more than he did because they never found out about what had happened between him and Andrea and he felt like he should have told them. But if he had told them they would have probably grounded him or something, or even just telling them and having to talk about it would have been the worst punishment. So he didn’t argue because it was basically like he was grounding himself. Most days he still didn’t do anything and the funny thing was they were always saying to him he should get out more, see friends, what happened to all those friends, you made so many friends when we first moved here. And he had to make up excuses like they were busy or leave me alone.

But now Karen was going ballistic and she said she was okay but he had to had to be there and really not too many people in the world were saying he had to be anywhere except his stupid orthodontist, so he asked his mom if she could reschedule it and in the text she seemed okay with it but that was because he said he had a math group meeting which sounded like bullshit even to him.

 

“You, too?” Tim said. It was basically the first thing he had said to Jerry in weeks, but now they were both walking in the same direction at the same time and it was kind of like, well, whatever.

“Yeah,” Jerry said. “I got this text from --”

“Yeah, Karen,” Tim said. “If this is some Vinh shit --”

“-- Yeah, I don’t know, do they sometimes hang out?”

“Not hang out I don’t think,” Jerry said. “But she buys drugs off him. Remember at Halloween?”

“Oh, yeah!” Jerry said. He laughed. “Were you a pig or something?”

“No! Death Eater.”

“That’s right. Stupid costume.”

“I know, I even thought that.”

They kept walking. The mob that got out of school at the same time was thinning out.

“Hey, I’m sorry if stuff got weird,” Jerry said.

“Yeah, well,” Tim said. “Nothing we can do about it now.”

“I know, but I just wanted to say. Like, people should have had your back. Like, at that party?”

“No shit they should have.”

“Yeah.”

“What about you? You were -- what happened in the end with Sabrina? Did you -- you told me in the hospital --”

“Yeah, nothing basically has happened since then. She never texts back. She never posts anything.”

“Ghosted,” Tim said.

“I guess.”
“That’s what happens to exes.”

“I don’t think I was ever her not-ex,” Jerry said.

“Not a thing,” Tim said.

“Yeah, no,” Jerry agreed. He looked back. “Hey,” he said. “Maya and Rachel. Should we wait up?”

Tim looked back. “Fuckton of people we know,” he said.

 

Mike tried to decide if he should hurry up or slow down. Both choices were problematic. If he slowed down Maya would catch up to him, and if he sped up he’d be walking with Jerry and Tim, who he basically hadn’t talked to since kind of -- not exactly ditching, but ditching for a good reason -- him at the party. So basically Mike had to walk at an exact steady pace and try not to look like he was doing it.

 

Maya said to Rachel, “Slow down.”

“We’re crawling already,” Rachel said

“I just don’t want to catch him.”

“But bet you he’s just going the same place as we are.”
“Wait, why?”

“Because,” Rachel said, “It’s obvious. Who walks toward the busted tree after school?”
“A million people.”

“Yeah, but none of us.”

Maya thought about it, glanced back, then suddenly said, “Oh, shit. Oh, shit. Don’t turn around.”

Rachel turned around and saw Andrea, walking toward them with some other girl that Rachel thought she knew.

“What the fuck, I said don’t turn around!” Maya said.

“Sorry, sorry, sorry!” Rachel squealed quietly.

“What is she doing here?” Maya asked.

“Same thing we are?” Rachel said.

“What are we doing?”

“I don’t know. But I think we’re about to find out.”

“Is that Karen?”

 

Karen sat under the busted tree, shaking a little bit. Part of it was that she was shaking because her body was craving pot, she hadn’t had any in two weeks and it was still a huge problem. People said you couldn’t get addicted to pot. People were full of shit.

But the other reason that she was shaking was that after she had decided what to do she had just texted everybody, but she didn’t really have a plan exactly figured out and she could just tell everyone that, she would seem like a total idiot. Also, it sucked that she and Naeli weren’t talking, it would have been nice to have her here but whatever, nothing she could do about it right now. But Naeli could have helped out because Karen and Naeli were always like from the same point of view, on the outside of the popular girls and allowed to hang out with them, but not really part of it; but also tbh laughing at it all behind their backs kind of. Not that much, but just that Naeli and Karen got it that everyone took their drama waaaaaay too seriously, and it would have helped if she was here to mellow things out.

 

They all figured it out. Karen just sort of sat there, nodding hi to people. First Tim and Jerry showed up, then Mike, then Maya and Rachel, and right after them, Andrea and Monica. And then everyone felt stupid standing over her so they sat down, kind of gradually, first Jerry did, across from Karen, and then Rachel sat down on Karen’s left hand side, and Maya next to her, and then Andrea sort of looked at Monica, who smiled and sat down on the other side of Karen, and Andrea squeezed in between Monica and Karen. Mike shrugged and sat down between Monica and Jerry.

Tim was the only one standing.

Karen said, “Come on, Tim, have a seat, pull up some grass.”

“For what?” Tim asked.

“It’s just -- can we all maybe talk?” Karen asked.

“About what?”

“Just …” Karen struggled to find the words, but suddenly Rachel jumped in.

She said, “I think we’ve all kind of been having trouble getting along and this is kind of a way to talk about it? Is that right?”

“Yeah,” Karen said.

“There’s nothing to talk about,” Tim said.

“I have things I want to say, or, um, I guess people have things they want to say to me,” Mike said, feeling his voice being shaky.

Tim looked at him. “Yeah, well, cool for you,” he said.

Nobody said anything for a long moment.

Monica said, “I know I’m not part of your guys’ group, but Andrea invited me and I hope that’s okay with you guys, that I’m here, let me know if not, and I have to say I think it’s a super important thing for people to talk things out.”

Tim looked at her, then at Jerry, who looked down.

“Sounds dumb,” Tim said. “I’m out.” And he took off, walking quickly away down the sidewalk, head down.

Everyone looked at Jerry, who said, “What? Oh, no, not me.”

“I’ll go,” Andrea suddenly said. They watched as she ran off and caught up with Tim. She talked to him for twenty seconds and he shrugged, then followed her back and sat down between Jerry and Maya.

“Thanks!” Monica said to Andrea.

“So I don’t exactly have an idea of how we start,” Karen said.

“This is like that part in Mean Girls —” Rachel said.

“Oh, I know!” Monica agreed, and the other girls sort of smiled, then looked away from each other. The guys looked confused, glancing upward, trying to remember what part of Mean Girls was being talked about.

Maya said, “We can go in a circle and everybody say something.”

“I’m not saying anything,” Tim said.

“You have to say something,” Jerry said.

“I don’t have to do shit,” Tim said.

“I’ll go,” Maya said. She took a big breath, then said, “I think I’ve been really not very nice to you, Andrea, and I’m sorry.”

Andrea started crying, softly, just tears trickling down her face.

Mike looked at his shoes.

Rachel, sitting next to Maya, said, “I feel like a lot of what happened was my fault.”

“Your fault?” Maya said, surprised. “You’re the only one who --”

“Let her say it,” Karen said.

“It is, though!” Rachel said. “When we were at that party and I rushed you like it was this big deal, my mom was nagging me, and that got you into this big hurry, and—”

“Oh, come on,” Maya said. “I didn’t get into an accident because you were hurrying me. I got into an accident because …” she thought for a second.

“Because you drive like shit?” Tim said.

Maya half shrugged, half smiled. “Yeah, I guess.”

Everyone kind of nodded at that.

Jerry said, “I’ll go.” Everyone looked at him while he tried to figure out what he wanted to say. He played with his shoelace for a while, then said, “So, it’s kind of private, but I think you all basically know that I had a personal experience with someone who used to be part of this group.”

Everyone waited for him to go on, but he hesitated, leaving Monica to ask, “Sabrina, you mean?”

“Why is she here?” Tim demanded suddenly, looking at Monica.

Karen said, “She already said.”

“She’s with me,” Andrea said to Tim.

“No offense,” Tim said, “But I feel like this is supposed to be this thing about that stupid group we were all supposedly in, Q Squad or whatever, and if it’s supposed to be that, then people who weren’t even in it shouldn’t be part of it. No offense.”

“I don’t mind, I’m just trying to be helpful,” Monica said, but Maya, who had been watching her, could tell that was bullshit. She was obviously the girl no one ever invited to anything, Maya knew that, and here she was trying to be nice and getting yelled at for it.

“I vote she stays, Tim,” Maya said. “We’re not trying to be some exclusive club, we never were.”

“You kind of were, though?” Karen said.

Maya looked at her, surprised, as though she had forgotten that Karen was there.

Maya said “I thought --”

“We kind of were,” Andrea agreed.

“I never really thought about it,” Maya said, then her head dropped down.

“It’s okay,” Karen said. “It’s just -- you guys think I’m just this stoner girl who hangs out with Naeli and you get to have fun with us but you don’t take us that seriously. And you know what? I accept that. People are gonna think what they think.”

Nobody knew what to say to that. Karen wiped something from her eye.

After a minute Mike said, “Sorry,” to her, and Rachel said, “Yeah, sorry, Karen, that was not cool of us.”

“I’ll go,” Monica said, and grabbed her backpack.

“No!” Andrea said. “Stay!”

“It’s disrespectful, is what,” Tim said. “Jerry’s trying to talk about Sabrina and this chick --”

“Don’t call her that,” Rachel said.

“My name is Monica.”

“Look,” Mike said.

“The point is, sorry, whatever,” Tim said, “The point is that Sabrina and Jerry -- it’s private enough, him having to talk about it? With everybody here? She shouldn’t have to have everybody know her business.”

“I get that,” Rachel said. “I think you’re just trying to be respectful of Sabrina’s feelings.”

“Exactly!” Tim said.

“I get that,” Maya agreed.

“Yeah,” Jerry said, “But it’s not like she’s going to hear about it. I mean, right?”

“Shit, I was going to say that!” Karen said. “I was going to say right at the beginning that whatever we say here, stays here. That everyone should agree to that, like no telling other people, no posting anything. Does everyone agree to that?”

No one said no, so Karen just nodded.

“But that’s not the point,” Tim insisted. “Talking about someone behind their back is talking about someone behind their back, even if they don’t know you’re doing it. I should know, you guys talk about me behind my back all the time.”

“Your back!” Andrea blurted out. “Oh, my God. Do you have any idea -- I’m just -- I’m not even gonna say.”

“Yeah, I…” Mike said, and everyone looked at him, but he didn’t add anything.

Rachel said, “Look, Tim, I get that you’re trying to protect Sabrina, but I think she would be really, really glad we were all talking things out. Even if they’re hard things to talk about.”

“Yeah, but --”

“But also, we’re not here to talk about what exactly happened detail by detail. It’s more to clear the air, right?” She looked around. “Right?”

Karen and Maya nodded, and Monica said “Right!”

“It’s about respect,” Jerry said. “I completely get that, Tim. And that’s exactly the problem, is maybe people think that I didn’t respect her?”

No one said anything.

“Isn’t that what people think?” Jerry asked.

Maya said, “Look, I don’t know exactly what happened --”

“Exactly,” Jerry said.

“But I think -- I think she was in, you know, like how people say, a vulnerable place, or whatever. And it seems to me, to be totally honest with you, that you maybe … took advantage of that? And it sucks because then she moved and nobody’s heard from her or anything.”

“She’s had a hard life,” Andrea said.

“Who hasn’t,” Tim said.

“She was really sad,” Jerry said quietly.

“That night?” Rachel asked.

“All the time,” Jerry said.

“True,” Andrea said.

“It is true,” Jerry said. “I did take advantage of her.”

“Oh,” Mike said.

“You mean --?” Rachel asked.

“I mean, no, not like --” Jerry felt himself flushing, which rarely happened but he hated when it did. “Look, I didn’t force her to do anything, not at all, if that’s what you think I was saying. It was completely two people being consensual. God, I can’t believe I’m talking about it in front of all of you.”

“I said that,” Tim said.

“Just go on,” Karen said.

“It’s just -- you’re right, Rachel. I should have said it wasn’t a good time for it, because she was having a hard night -- like, you know, a really hard night. Basically I did say it wasn’t a good time. But I didn’t really insist.”

“Yeah, I bet not,” Tim said.

“Can you not?” Maya said. “He’s trying to be honest and --”

“Oh, come on,” Tim said. “He thought she was hot, she was down, they boned or whatever. How is that him being so evil?” “It’s not that --” Karen started to say.

“Don’t be so crass,” Rachel said at the same time.

“It’s realistic,” Mike said, and didn’t look at Andrea.

“The stupid thing is,” Jerry said, getting louder than everyone else. “The stupid thing is,” he could feel himself flushing hard now, but he had decided to just get it out, maybe it was stupid to say it, but this felt like just a right time, and he said, “You guys think I was all into her and yeah she’s cute but what I figured out, only after, is that she’s not even who I’m more like into, and it’s you, Rachel, maybe?”

“Oh, my God!” Rachel said, and inhaled a huge breath, holding one hand to her chest.

Everyone else looked stunned.

Jerry wondered how badly he had blown it. Rachel didn’t think, couldn’t think.

Tim said, “Well, that happened.”

“I know, can’t take that one back,” Mike said with a half laugh, but Tim gave him a look and Mike stopped talking.

“Maybe?” Andrea said.

“Well,” Rachel said, trying to look at Jerry but not feeling like she could, and staring at the ground instead. “That’s flattering, and I hope we can talk later about it in private.”

Everyone looked at Jerry. “Yeah, okay, that sounds … yeah, okay,” he said.

Karen said, “Not really what we’re here for, I guess?”

“Sorry,” Jerry said. “I mean, I’m really, really sorry. I should have just left Sabrina alone. No, well, not alone. Just.”

“You should have kept it in your pants?” Tim asked.

“Basically,” Jerry said.

“It’s all my fault,” Mike said. Everyone looked at him. He hadn’t said much of anything yet, and some of them had almost forgotten he was there.

“No, it’s not,” Andrea said.

“Yeah, it pretty much is and we all know it,” Mike said, and looked at Maya. He went on, “I guess the way it went was that obviously everyone here knows that I had a crush on Maya, that’s not some big secret, but then I guess I did the same thing you did, Jerry.”

“Let your body do the thinking,” Jerry said.

“Yeah, basically. And I’m really, really sorry. It was disrespectful to you, Maya, and I know it hurt you, and I’m sorry. And it was disrespectful to you, Andrea, and I’m sorry.”

“Oh, bullshit,” Andrea said.

“What?” Mike said.

“Your fault? Come on. We all know this is all my fault. It’s nice of you to try to cover for me, but I’m the bitch of this story and we all know it and if any of you try to say that I’m not, I’ll fucking walk right out of here like I’m Tim.”

“Ouch,” Tim said.

Andrea looked like she was going to start saying more, but then she started crying, hard, and she couldn’t seem to stop. Monica leaned over and put her arm around her. Andrea leaned into her and then cried harder for a long time. Maya and Rachel tried to figure out if they should go over there, and the guys all looked extremely uncomfortable.

“It’s so fucking hard!” Andrea suddenly blurted out, wiping her face with the sleeve of her sweater. “Everyone thinks I’m this fucking murderer!”

“Nobody thinks that,” Rachel said.

“Yes they do! And they’re fucking right!” Andrea sobbed a few times, then said, “Look, we all know what happened. Maya was my best friend in the world and I fucked it up because I was jealous, so petty, so, so fucking childish, I can’t believe I wanted to mess with you, Maya, I would do anything to have people back to normal now but we can’t, we can’t, it isn’t normal, it never was normal, it’s never going to be normal and it’s all my fault and I didn’t know what to do, I can’t believe I let myself get into that situation!” She finished with a whisper, “It’s murdering a baby.”

“It’s not murdering a baby,” Rachel said.

“Yeah it is,” Tim said. “It’s exactly that.”

“Oh, my God, shut up!” Maya suddenly screamed at Tim. “Can’t you see this is tearing her apart? God, I wish you had just walked away, like you wanted to, God, go, you’re so mean.”

“I’m not being mean, I’m being honest,” Tim said, but he said it to the ground. “I thought the whole thing was just about people being honest with each other, you said that, Andrea, you told me if I came back I could say whatever I wanted as long as it was honest.”

“He’s right,” Andrea said, with a huge, long sigh. “Both ways. He’s right that I said that and he’s right that it’s murdering a baby.” She added quickly to Rachel and Maya, “I get that you want to be all political women’s rights about it and everything, but you don’t know. You don’t even know. It wasn’t your baby, no disrespect, but that’s just as a fact.”

“Was it mine?” Mike asked quietly.

Andrea looked at him. She stared at him. He looked away.

“Are you joking? What the fuck kind of question is that?”

“Sorry,” Mike said.

“Andrea,” Monica said.

“No, I can’t believe this! What do you think I am? Do you think I --”

“I don’t know what to think!” Mike suddenly shouted. “How am I supposed to know! You never told me anything! You just -- used me, like I was your revenge against Maya, it’s so --” he broke off. Now he was crying, and no one knew what to do about it. The guys all looked at each other, not sure what to say, and the girls all looked back and forth between Maya and Andrea, who weren’t sure what to do. Finally Monica went over and gave Mike a hug, but he shook it off after a few seconds.

“Well, it’s fucking working, I hope you’re happy, Karen,” Tim said. “It’s working awesome.”

“It kind of is,” Rachel said. “Isn’t it? Isn’t it the point for people to be honest, even if it’s painful?”
“What are you so mad about?” Karen asked Tim.

Tim half laughed. “It’s like we’re not even talking about some of the points that I wanted to talk about, which is, like, whatever, it’s not that important, it’s just that now everyone’s upset, and if you thought before everyone was pissed off and wasn’t talking to anyone, you think now people are going to? You think Andrea and Maya and Mike are going to start being friends again?”

“I’m down,” Maya said.

“I’m down,” Mike said, smiling at Maya.

“I’m not down,” Andrea said. “But not because I’m mad at you guys. I’m mad at myself and I really, really messed up and it’s my responsibility, and I have to live with that.”

“But why do you have to live with that alone?” Maya asked.

“I’m not alone. I have Monica.”

Everyone looked at Monica.

“Monica, you’re fucking awesome,” Rachel said. “Can I just say that? I’m really, really sorry I haven’t gotten to know you better before, because you seem like the nicest person in the world.”

“She so is,” Maya said. “And super smart.”

“Stop,” Monica said.

“You are, though,” Andrea said.

“You’re way chiller than any of us,” Jerry said.

“Oh, my gosh, you guys,” Monica said. “It’s nice of you to say, but I’m just being nice and you guys are upset, but I think once you get back to being friends --”

“Oh, no, not even,” Andrea said. “Don’t start thinking that I’m going to be part of anything without you in it.”

Now Monica was crying, but happy tears.

She said, quietly, “It’s just … it’s been so long … I just … I always kind of hoped….”

Andrea put a hand on her shoulder and then played with her hair a bit, and everyone watched for a little while, feeling bad for what had happened but good for what was happening.

“I feel like if I don’t cry soon we’re not done,” Tim said.

“Yeah, when are we done?” Rachel asked Karen.

“How should I know?” Karen said. “What was your thing, Tim? The thing that pissed you off?”

“Oh, that?” Tim smirked. “Doesn’t matter. I was pissed off at Mike because he was a pussy at the party and didn’t have my back and at Jerry for not having my back, but I’m over it, and at all of you girls because no one ever even thinks to get into the kind of situation that Jerry got into with Sabrina or Andrea with Mike, no one thinks of getting into that with me, which is fine, it’s really, it’s just fine, it’s just so funny to me, I mean, I don’t need all the hassle of all the problems that come with it, obviously, I’m not saying that, but you all don’t get it. You’re all so worried about what people are going to say, it never occurred to you that some people wish people would talk about them, because no one ever does. And you don’t even want to know what that’s like.”

There was a long silence and everyone tried to not look at Tim, or at each other. Each of the girls thought about how Tim had said that no one could ever imagine themselves making out with Tim and each of them thought that that was totally true, but totally sad. Mike thought about saying that it was worse to have people talk about you than not, but realized that wasn’t the kind of thing you could prove, and anyway that wasn’t the point.

“People do talk about you,” Karen finally said.

“Shut up,” Tim said, “I’m being serious.”

“So am I,” Karen said. “I’m being honest. People talk about you, actually a lot lately, and I don’t know if it’s what you want them to talk about, but they’re always saying that you were brave.”

“I said be serious,” Tim said.

“She’s totally right,” Monica said. “Everyone who talks about -- kind of about what happened to Andrea and everything that night? Everything we’ve been talking about? Everyone always says --”

“‘Well at least Tim had her back,’” Rachel put in.

“Exactly,” Monica said.

“That’s true,” Maya said.

“That’s bullshit,” Tim said. “People …”

“Are you kidding me?” Mike asked. “That’s all people ever say. That’s all they talk about, that you saved the fucking day and Mike was a pussy who didn’t stick around.”

“Also that Vinh got homicidal,” Jerry said.

“Fucking Vinh,” Karen said, thinking about the time he had tried to sell her mescaline, which was like, what the fuck do you think I am?

“Fucking Vinh,” Tim agreed. “That guy’s insane.”

“So you get to be the tough one,” Mike said to Tim.

“Well, then, I guess you get to be the cute one,” Tim said back.

Mike didn’t say anything to that.

“So, well, then, I guess I get to be the slut one,” Andrea said.

Monica half inhaled and started to say something, but Andrea put a hand on her arm. She said, “Look, I hate saying it, but that’s who people think I am. And until I change my shit, people are I guess right for thinking what they think.”

Rachel smiled at her and said, “I get to be the smart one who actually isn’t smarter, just maybe read more books.”

“Oh, fuck all that multiple intelligences shit,” Maya said. “You’re smart because you’re smarter than everyone, own it.”

“But I—”

“You’re the smart one,” Jerry agreed.

“Obvious,” Tim said. “That multiple intelligence shit is to make stupid people feel less bad for being stupid.”

Rachel almost corrected “less bad” to “worse” but realized that would have been the gravest error ever.

“Then I guess I’m the one nobody notices?” Monica asked. “Or maybe I was?”

“No, you’re the nice one,” Rachel said.

“No, it’s just that I haven’t had the opportunity, really, I haven’t so much been in situations where I could have been mean, and --”

“No,” Andrea said. “You’re the fucking nicest one ever. It’s who you are.”

Monica said, “Well, gee.”

“That fucking proves it,” Tim said. “Nobody says ‘gee.’”

“Well, I’m the stoner,” Karen said. “In recovery, sort of. Two weeks.”

“Really?” Maya said. “Good for you!”

“There go the fun parties,” Andrea said, but everyone could tell she was just messing.

“I think I’m just the ordinary guy who makes dumb mistakes,” Jerry said.

“Pretty much,” Tim said.

Maya said, “And I’m the bad driver who’s judgmental of her friends and mean to them and wishes she could change, but maybe she never will.”

That kind of killed the buzz for a long second, but then Andrea came over and hugged her, sort of knocking her over, and everyone kind of laughed at that, and it turned into her wrestling Rachel and Maya, so Tim also took Jerry down, just to remind him who the fuck he was dealing with but also for the fun of it, and Mike and Monica and Karen split an orange and threw the peels at the people wrestling, and it felt like something had changed, somehow.

 

Andrea

 

I can’t tell if Maya is mad at me or I’m mad at her but it’s all good. You can be mad at someone and still be their friend and we’ll figure it out after school, but first? Lunch.

The way it works at lunch at Kennedy is now that Tim and Monica are driving you haul ass out of there as soon as the bell rings, the main question being do you ride with Monica who is chill as fuck or with Tim who has a sick ride I think it’s called a Dodge Charger? Or risk your life with Malik or Dennis? Anyway you end up at the DQ either way, not that DQ next to school, fucking freshmen go there, God no, the other DQ which is next to BK and Starbucks and Urban Outfitters so people have choices.

Insta was blowing up because some 9th graders had done some stupid shit at some party, apparently they were smoking, oh no, but also somebody had gone braless and bounced out of her skimpy ass dress, guys all over the interwebs getting way too excited about some freshman boobs and calling her shit and other people defending her and people posting political shit that had nothing to do with it and others harshing on people for smoking pot and of course people defending it, and it was all so, like, oh God, these stupid children.

Mike was already looking at it when I walked into the DQ, I could totally tell just by the look on his face, he was sitting with Tim and Dennis and staring at his phone.

Mike said, “They never learn, do they.”

Maya, who was with him, said, “We’re so much better than them.”

“Because we’re older,” I said. “That makes us better.”

Jerry, who was sitting there eating a gross corn dog, who even eats a corn dog, said, “It’s not just that, we’re just better people.”

“That’s not true,” Monica said. She was sitting across from Jerry, with Rachel, which I was kind of psyched because she’d been hanging out maybe a little bit too much with me only? But then I was also kind of jelly of how suddenly everyone was her friend, a little bit?

“Sorry, babe,” I said to Monica, “But we’re definitely better than freshmen. They do all this stupid shit and we never made any mistakes.”

“Not one,” Tim said.

“Still don’t. That’s why we’re so dope,” Maya said. She had come in early I guess in her own car? No one likes to ride with her because she’s a suckass driver but no one likes to tell her, either, so it’s kind of weird.

Maya slorked at her chocolate shake and gave me that look that meant, we should talk after, and I was all, okay, thinking it not saying it but she knew. Even though I wasn’t really hungry I quickly got one of those peanut butter shakes they have, these gross but actually also kind of great? shakes, and then Jerry suddenly yelled out, “Woah!” in this hyper voice, and I had to hustle back.

“What’s up?” Tim asked, ready for action. Like he was going to kick someone’s ass over some text Jerry got. Tim needs to fucking chill. Although, one thing? At least his acne chilled out over the summer. He still has a ways to go, though. He has whatever it’s called before you have potential. Except, oh my God, I heard he and this Latina chick, I don’t remember her name, maybe hooked up or something? I mean, everybody’s gotta have somebody I guess? But come on, girl.

“You guys are not going to believe this,” Jerry said.

“What’s up?” Rachel asked, carrying her fries and standard chocolate shake back to the table to sit next to him. Like, on top of him, almost? It’s not like there’s a thing there with those two, but it’s not like there isn’t, either, does that make sense?

Jerry held his phone up, even though no one could really make out the screen except Rachel. But she immediately said, “Oh, my God!”

“What is it?” Monica asked.

“Oh, shit,” I said. “I know who it is.”

“Who?” Dennis asked.

“Andrea called it,” Jerry said, nodding at me.

“Wait, who?” Malik asked.

Maya suddenly inhaled half her shake and even though she was half choking said, “Sabrina!”

“Yeah,” Jerry said. “She DM’d me.”

“Oh, my God!” Maya said. “What did she say? What’s going on?”

“Who’s Sabrina?” Dennis asked Malik.

“Chick who transferred. Nobody’s heard from her in months. It got really weird.”

Maya stared at him, kind of obviously mean, but he said, “What? I didn’t say she got really weird, just that it got weird -- like, all of it.”

“Also she did get really weird,” I said. “Love her though. What is she saying already, Jerry?”

“Okay, you ready?”

“No,” Maya and Rachel said together.

“Go for it,” Tim said. “I gotta get back for fifth, I have some quiz, I think?”

“Nobody gives a shit about your quiz, Tim,” Mike said.

“Well, nobody gives a shit about your --”

“Guys!” Rachel half shouted.

Jerry took a breath, then said, “Okay, it’s kind of long? ‘Dear Jerry, I’m so sorry I have not written to you before but to be honest I didn’t know what to say. I have moved as I guess you know to Oakmont and it’s nice here, I think things are improving for my mindset. I have a therapist and I take medication which I don’t want you thinking is weird, it just means that I’m feeling a lot better and understanding myself way better, and also I decided with my therapist that I wanted finally to say something back to you, and to everybody. I’m going to ask you to forward this to whoever you think it’s right for, but don’t worry about if you make a mistake, I’m not ashamed of having problems and trying to work on them and people knowing that. The first thing is, thank you for being a gentleman.”

At that point, Jerry started crying as he was reading and it was a little harder to understand him, but Rachel put a hand on his shoulder, massaging it, kind of a little bit too much if you ask me, but anyway, he kept reading. “Thank you for always trying to protect me. When we were together, no matter what anyone tells you, I can vouch that you never asked me to do anything I didn’t want to, and any consequences that were bad I am taking accountability about. Thank you. Thanks also to the girls in the Quad Squad. Biggest shout! I so, so, so loved being part of that squad! And I never got a chance to say goodbye, but that’s kind of how it went down, I made some mistakes and I wasn’t allowed on social media for a while and stuff like that but I kind of have been secretly stalking you guys for a little while now, not stalking obviously but hoping things were good for my old friends. I feel like now I can say that we were friends and mean it, even if before I might not have acted like it. And now I think, like it looks to me like you guys are awesome. Which I always knew. Rachel is the nicest person in the world and I love you so so so much Maya and Andrea, don’t ever fight again, it’s not worth it. You’re both so so so beautiful inside and out and I was so lucky to get to know you.”

At that point we of course both of us started crying and Maya came over and held my fingers which was kind of corny? But still, I liked it.

Tim started spinning his keys, which meant basically that he had to get back to class. Jerry looked at him and said, “I’ll read ahead a little” He scanned, then read out, “‘Tell Tim that even though he doesn’t think it, he has potential and one of these days an awesome girl is going to fall in love with him.’”

“CoughMaria,” Dennis said, and everyone kind of laughed.

Tim looked embarrassed and said, “Didn’t know they gave out fortune cookies at DQ.” Which got a laugh, although personally I had to think about it for a second.

Then he took off, saying to Jerry, “Shoot me a text if there’s anything else in there a brother needs to know.”

“You’re not a fucking brother!” Malik yelled after him, but Tim was halfway out the door and just flipped him off behind his back, through the closing door.

“What else does she say?” I asked Jerry.

He scrolled through and kind of blushed. “Um, nothing, just some personal stuff.”

“Okayyyy,” Maya said, laughing. Rachel didn’t seem to mind, so I laughed, too. Whatever. It was in the past.

“Then some more stuff about Oakmont, super boring,” Jerry said.

“Is that all?” Maya asked.

“Basically,” Jerry said. “Except the last thing she says is, ‘Quad Squad 4Eva!’”

“Fuck yeah!” I said.

“I’ll drink to that!” Rachel said, and she held up her chocolate shake, and Maya held up hers, too, and I held out my peanut butter shake and Jerry held up his gross half-eaten corn dog and we all toasted and shouted out “Quad Squad 4Eva! Quad Squad!”

And then these people started giving us dirty looks and we all kind of realized without saying it that we had to head back and these seniors were kind of waiting for our table so we vacated, although I did turn around for a second because there was this one guy there, this senior who I know from when I worked at the textbook room who is fucking hot, and I was trying to remember his name, but then Maya said, “Andrea, get yo ass out here!”

And Rachel said, “Quad Squad!”

And Jerry said, “Quad Squad 4Eva!” and I laughed and said, “Yeah, okay, Quad Squad 4Eva!” And then we hauled ass back to fucking Kennedy.

 


Quad Squad

Quad Squad is the story of a group of high school students who fight, make up, mess around, get confused, betray each other, learn, forget, make huge mistakes, pay for them, fall in and out of love, all while hanging around doing nothing much. Roll call: Andrea: popular, self-centered, but sort of likable. Tim: awkward, angry, truthful. Rachel: good at school but not sure if she should be. Jerry: loyal, friendly, clumsy. Maya: confused by all this change. Mike: new around here and trying to learn how to fit in. Malik: absent, stayed up too late playing video games. Sabrina: sad but trying. Karen: usually stoned. Naeli: always stoned. Vinh: trouble.

  • Author: A.B.
  • Published: 2017-06-10 19:20:17
  • Words: 71217
Quad Squad Quad Squad