By Charlotte Freccia
Cheap white wine and good cocaine at Hen’s house. Scrimp on one to score on the other, I guess. What’s a sweetheart like you doing in a place like this, my dad used to say, when I was a kid waiting by the bike racks and he’d come pick me up from school. What’s a sweetheart like you doing in a place like this, I want to say to myself, now.
I’m here with Pearl because I go everywhere with Pearl. Pearl is here because she knows Hen from high school. In high school, Hen was one year older than us and played doubles on the tennis team. She had some friends, but never a boyfriend, on account of her terrible cystic acne. Pearl and I know each other from growing up, when her mom drove her to my house every morning thirty minutes before school started so we could walk together, even though I lived farther from the school than she did. We tried out for the middle-school cheerleading team together, and we both got spots; we tried out for the high-school cheerleading team together, and we both got cut. We found other things to do. Pearl played the mother character in three different musicals––Hairspray, Footloose, and Bye Bye Birdie–– and wrote the advice column for the student newspaper under the pseudonym of Cousin Cassie and got a lacrosse-player boyfriend one year younger than us who sold everyone mid-grade weed and was inexplicably called Blister, even though his name was Tom. I was on the debate team and played first chair in the cello section of the symphonic orchestra. I never got a boyfriend––was never all too interested in getting a boyfriend, really––but I fucked around with Blister’s friend Dennis because he was always around anyway, and because I liked hooking up with stoners: they smoked you out and kissed you slow, and you never had to be afraid that they would hurt you.
But now we’re in college, and I sit outside the law library watching the pre-JD kids walk in and out in their Bean boots and Pirates caps and practice my cello in my dorm room at night. But now we’re in college, and everyone loves Pearl because she sings a capella, and everyone loves Hen because she went on Accutane and now has smooth pink skin, the skin of a peach, plus a rickety duplex off-campus on Ten and Patterson where there is cheap white wine and good cocaine. Hen and Pearl both have 8 AMs, and they have breakfast together every morning. On one of those mornings, Hen invited Pearl to come over tonight, and told her to bring me along. When Hen told Pearl to invite me along I knew she must not know about what happened between me and her brother Jameson, or she wouldn’t invite me at all, you know, because she’d feel too bad. What’s a sweetheart like me doing in a place like this?
“P&P” by Kendrick Lamar starts playing and someone turns up the bass so the walls of the house shudder and shake like somebody with a fever. I’m going through something with life, but pussy and patron make you feel alright. Pearl materializes by my side.
Our song, Priscilla! she squeals into my shoulder. “P&P” is our song because we, too, are P&P, Pearl and Priscilla, Priscilla and Pearl. We have only recently become familiar with this song. It has only recently become ours.
I’m known to use big words when I’m drunk, and that’s how I can tell I’m drunk. Is it possible to be blackout and metacognitive at the same time, I ask Pearl.
PUSSY AND PATRON THAT’S SOME GREAT ADVICE! she screams in my ear by way of a response.
Uh-huh, I say.
No one knows about me and Jameson except me––not even Jameson knows about me and Jameson. Hen doesn’t know about Jameson. She doesn’t know because he couldn’t tell her. Pearl doesn’t know about Jameson. She doesn’t know because I didn’t tell her. She knows him, though. Knew him. Jameson was friends with Blister for awhile, and he used to buy us alcohol from the drive-through in Ferguson the summer we were sixteen, even though when we were sixteen he was fifteen but looked twelve. The summer we were seventeen we asked him to get us a forty and a handle of the cheapest whiskey on Memorial Day weekend, the first weekend of summer, and he’d said he’d get it for us and he wouldn’t even charge us, if I’d let him finger me. I didn’t let him finger me, and Pearl and I took to lingering outside the convenience store on Old Boalsburg, stopping college students in the parking lot and asking them to buy us beer. In mid-June, Blister and Pearl and Dennis and me were looking for a place to smoke without getting caught and Blister texted Jameson and Jameson said that we could smoke in his yard if I blew him. I didn’t blow him and for the rest of the summer we smoked under the slide at the playground at Kaywood Park, holding the smoke inside our mouths, almost choking, every time we heard a car roll by. After the Fourth of July, I was at the back of the CVS near the middle school looking at nail polish colors when I felt a hand flat and wet grab up a handful of my ass like wet sand. I knew it was his hand without turning to look, and I knew it was his voice that said that he got hard when he thought about me in my middle-school cheerleading uniform without turning to look. I didn’t turn to look, just stayed still until he walked away. Two weeks later, he told everyone he ate me out in the grass under the ferris wheel at the carnival at Holy Trinity and that my pussy tasted like rotting fish. I didn’t mind much. I was sure everyone knew that Jameson was full of shit, and I thought that this would be the end of it.
It wasn’t the end of it. In mid-August, he stopped me behind the garage at a party. I had been throwing away some empty beer bottles in the alley and had dropped one and cut my hand on a jagged lip of broken glass when I tried to pick it up, and I was standing there with the blood suddenly blooming, wondering what to do, when he stopped me. He must have asked Pearl where I was, and she must have told him. Or he must have followed me, and waited. I like to think he must have followed me, and waited. I don’t like to think that he asked Pearl where I was and she told him. That was when it happened. Behind the garage. My hand cut so there was blood on his forearm, and his shirt, and his face from the places where I tried to push him away. My tongue thick from the beers I’d drunk which I’d tried to throw away, which was why I was in the alley, to throw the beers away, and why I guess no one heard me, even though I thought I was yelling as loud as I could. My head sore and screaming against the whitewashed wood siding of the garage, which is where he ground it, one hand flat against my face, the fingers brushing my hairline, the palm flattening my nose, the heel slipping into my mouth; the other hand occupied elsewhere. I tried to bite. My teeth made tiny indentations in his flesh. I kneed him in the balls. He swore, and dropped to his knees. I pushed him onto his back in the alley. His head hit the ground where the broken glass was scattered. For a minute, both of us were motionless. I watched him close his eyes as he laid there on the pavement, and thought that he looked almost peaceful with his eyes closed and his mouth open just a little in the shape of the vowel in the middle of the swear that he swore at me when I kicked him. When I felt like I could move again I walked to the side of the garage, where tall weeds pricked my legs, and I pulled my underwear back up under my skirt. There was still the blood on my hand from the broken bottle, and blood on the inside of my thighs, now, too.
I stumbled back to the party with my hands in tight fists like there was something in my hand, which of course there was. I stumbled back into the kitchen and started asking everyone where they’d last seen Pearl in a voice like there was something at the back of my throat, which of course there was. I stumbled through the narrow hall to the laundry room once I found Dennis and he told me she was there, dragging my body against the wall like there was something inside my head, which of course there was. I stumbled against the laundry room door and stayed stuck in the doorway for a few moments, watching her make out with Blister, before I stumbled over to her like there was something between my legs, which of course there was.
Pearl, I said, in a voice which stumbled, too. We gotta go. We gotta go home. They hadn’t heard me come in, but stopped making out when they heard my voice.
Blister turned his body so he was half facing me and half facing Pearl, who was sitting on top of the dryer. His face was scruffy and sullen from the moonlight which leaked in through the window over the washer.
Oh, Priscilla, she said. What happened? She knew that something had happened even though I hadn’t told her, because that was the kind of friends we were.
No––nothing happened, I stuttered. I just want to go home.
I’m not ready to go home yet, she said. If you want to leave, you can, though––don’t feel like you have to wait for me. Tom can drive me home. She knew I wanted to leave but didn’t feel like she needed to leave with me, because that was the kind of friends we were.
I will, I said. I will leave. Before I had even finished saying it Blister had turned away from me and back to Pearl again, and their single body blocked the moonlight and the room was dark again, dark to me.
I navigated back through that narrow hallway, back through that crowded kitchen, back past Dennis who kept asking me what was wrong. I kept walking through the house until I was out of it and then I walked straight across the yard which was littered with red cups which glinted with the multicolored glow of the lights which were strung around the railings of the porch of the house. I left. And when I left I swore there was a car parked across the street from of the house and I swore that there was a light on in that car and I swear that by that light I could see that Hen was in that car, talking with another girl from the tennis team, but it couldn’t have been true because Hen didn’t go to parties in those days, wasn’t invited, and it couldn’t have been true because Hen and Jameson couldn’t have been in the same place on the same night, doing such different things. Or maybe it was true. It must have been, because when I saw her I stopped and looked at her, and before long she stopped talking to whomever she was talking to and looked at me, and it took too long after she started looking at me for her to lift her hand in a cautious sort of wave, and once she did it it took too long for me to lift and unfold my own fist into a hand which waved back at her and when it did the blood which had pooled in the fist rolled down my wrist the way a broken beer bottle rolls down an alley. When she saw the blood her mouth dropped open and her hand dropped back into her lap, and then I saw her make a move to open her car door and took off down the sidewalk, hard as a head against a stretch of broken asphalt which glitters with broken glass. I didn’t stop until I was home, and when I got there I cracked the door open and climbed the stairs to my room and got under the covers still in my clothes and slept hard and didn’t think about Jameson until the next morning, when I woke up and smelled the rusty smell of zinc, the blood dried brown on my arms and legs.
Jameson didn’t tell anyone where he was going that night when he disappeared from the party to find me in the alley, and because he didn’t tell anyone where he was going no one looked for him and after I kicked him out of me and onto his knees and into the ground he hit his head so hard that he didn’t wake up, at least not for awhile. When he did it was the next morning, right after the sun came up when the host of the party began to clean up the yard before her parents got home from taking her sister on a college visit and she found him, still lying there, and it took her six full minutes to get him to open his eyes. I heard that her parents found out about the party because she needed their help knowing what to do with him. I heard that two years later his hands still shake uncontrollably and that he’s homeschooled now because he has trouble remembering. I have trouble remembering too, sometimes, but for different reasons.
Cheap white wine and good cocaine at Hen’s house, and if you’re going through something with life, Pussy and Patron will make you feel alright. Cheap white wine and good cocaine at Hen’s house and somehow a sweetheart like me ended up in a place like this, with Pearl, who is here because of Hen, whose brother is Jameson who once did something to me in an alley behind a garage and Jameson can’t know what he did because he can’t remember, and because boys who do that sort of thing never know that they’ve done that sort of thing and Pearl can’t know because then she might tell me that she was the one who told him where I was that night, and Hen can’t know because if she knew she wouldn’t have told Pearl to bring me along to her house where there is cheap white wine and good cocaine which by now I’ve had too much of so the party is moving fast in front of my eyes like it’s being played back for me by some sort of machine and Pearl is telling me something and I’m saying something back but no one can hear me, you know, too loud. I wonder who I’m telling this story to, anyway––her or me?
About the Author:
Charlotte Freccia is a third-year student of English, Creative Writing, and Women’s and Gender Studies at Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio, where she also enjoys an associateship with the Kenyon Review. She is a 2016 winner of the Philip Wolcott Timberlake Writing Award, and has recently published poetry in Zaum Magazine, short fiction in Potluck Magazine, and creative nonfiction in Newfound. Her short story “Young Enough To Be Afraid” was published in Adelaide Literary Magazine in July 2017.