Juliet Escoria

Fight Between Friends

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Nicole Took Her Shirt Off First

By Juliet Escoria

 

We decided we were going to have an orgy. We’d do it at Jason’s on Friday, at 6:45. His mom never got home til 9 at the earliest, so we figured that was plenty of time. And, I don’t know. We thought 6:45 was funny.
             Jason had a bunk bed, the bottom full-sized, the top a twin where his little brother slept. We were sitting on the bottom bunk, all five of us, close together, drinking beer and waiting for the numbers on the clock to change. We all kept on saying “6:45” and then giggling.
             Soon it was 6:44, and then there it was. 6:45. We stopped laughing and we looked at each other. Nicole at me, and me at Jason and then Vincent, and Chelsea was looking away. Nicole and I were best friends, and Chelsea was our second best. Jason and Vincent were best friends. Vincent and I were neighbors. We’d all known each other since middle school, and me and Vincent for longer than that. We got so still for a moment. We were waiting to see it unfold.
             Nicole took her shirt off first, and so the rest of us did the same. We took off our pants, and we sat there, the girls in bras and panties, the boys in boxers. It felt awkward and unsexy, so to speed things along I took off my bra, and then the other girls did too. Nicole leaned in to kiss me, and her mouth was cold from the beer. We broke away, and then I was kissing Jason, and Chelsea had her hand on my thigh. We all kissed and touched and moved around, grabbing onto each other’s bodies. But the boys wouldn’t take off their boxers, and when Jason went to stick his fingers in my underwear I pushed him away. Except then Nicole and Vincent went into the closet, and then we heard noises, and then neither of them was a virgin anymore. After that, they were boyfriend and girlfriend. After that, they were in love.

***

Vincent and I had hung out after school most days since he’d moved here in the first grade. His mother had died right before he and his father moved into the neighborhood, and Vincent’s dad didn’t care what we did so mostly we just smoked pot and played Tekken. I was only ever good at video games when high.
             I’d never thought Vincent was cute or anything. He’d only ever been my friend. He was too skinny for me, and looked like a rabbit with his lack of a chin. The rabbitness got worse when he smoked. He’d start doing this weird twitchy thing with his mouth, and his eyes would get rimmed with red.
             Nicole said it was weird, her best friend and her boyfriend hanging out together all the time. We both tried to point out that we’d done this since we were kids but still she didn’t like it. I could tell it made her really upset. And I didn’t want to hurt her, and neither did Vincent, so I stopped going over there unless she was there too.
             Things were different now. Nicole liked beer and not weed, so we drank instead of smoked and I didn’t play video games. We’d listen to music and just sit there, Nicole flipping through magazines, me sometimes reading a book, Vincent playing Tekken by himself. It was boring, mostly, but it was better than being alone. I would go home before it got dark, so Nicole and Vincent could do whatever. So they could fuck.

***

Nicole went to visit her dad in Seattle for all of June and July. She did that every summer. This year she fought her mom, trying to get out of it so she could stay here with Vincent, but her mom told her you can’t argue with a custody arrangement.
             With Nicole gone, things between Vincent and I went back to the way they were: smoking weed, playing video games. Except for when she called. When that happened, we’d press pause and I stayed quiet. He would sit on the edge of the bed, his back to me, winding the phone cord around his wrist, and I would walk around the room, running my fingers over his things, looking at his posters, looking at the back of his head, silent as a ghost.

***

It was almost August. Vincent told me he had something special when I called that day before I came over. When I got there, we smoked a bowl and then he pulled out from his closet a fifth of Jack.
             “I stole it for us,” he said and smiled.
             “You know I can’t play Tekken drunk,” I said.
             “But I’ve been saving it.”
             “For what?”
             “I don’t know,” he said. “A bon voyage to video games?” He looked disappointed, so I told him we could play until I got too fucked up. We poured shots.
             I beat him three times in a row. Then I lost, and lost again. “I’m too drunk,” I said.
             Vincent put down his controller. “Let’s take another shot.” He was drunker than me, and slurring.
             I didn’t want one but I took it anyway and we cheersed, spilling some onto his dresser.
             “Look at that,” he said, and pointed to the clock in the VCR. “It’s almost 6:45.”
             He was right. It was 6:44.
             “Can I have a kiss for old time’s sake?”
             “What the fuck, Vincent.”
             “Come on, just a little one?” He was tilting toward me, the drunk look coating his eyes but underneath there was something more vulnerable, like he was afraid what would happen if I said no. I pecked him on the mouth. It meant nothing.
             Except it didn’t feel like nothing.
             My heart was beating fast and we pulled away and looked at each other. Then we were kissing again, but this time with tongue, and the next thing I knew we were on the floor.

***

We swore to each other we would never tell Nicole. It would devastate her, we agreed, but I think she might have known something was going on anyway. I would go to his house and she would be there and it would be normal, except things could shift so quickly. His knee might be out as I was walking by and I’d graze it with my arm, just for a second, the kind of thing we’d never given any thought before. But now we pulled apart so quick you’d think we’d snapped in half. Or Nicole would leave the room, to pee, to get some water, and we’d sit in a heavy silence that hurt.

***

I was sitting in my room, a few days before Christmas, listening to music and reading. My phone rang. I picked it up.
             “Bitch,” was all she said. There was a click, and then dial tone.

***

The break ended and I didn’t know where to sit at lunch, because Chelsea wouldn’t talk to me either. I would see the four of them across the quad – Chelsea and Jason were dating now – and you’d never have known there was a person who’d gone missing. I could have started hanging out with other people, I guess – it wasn’t like I had no friends, but it seemed too difficult, too tiresome, to build up new friendships, so most days I went to the edge of campus and ate my sandwich in the bushes with a book between my knees. The weekends were long and lonely.

***

I was doing homework when someone knocked on my bedroom door. Instead of being Mom or Dad, in walked Chelsea and Nicole. I froze at first, but I figured they couldn’t do much with my parents just down the hallway.
             “Hi,” I said, and the word hung there.
             Chelsea shut the door. Nicole was standing so close to me. I could smell her perfume – CK One, same as before. I’d missed her. I’d really missed her. “Are you sorry?” she said.
             “Of course I’m sorry,” I said, all quiet. “I was sorry the second it happened. It was so stupid and I don’t understand why— ”
             “Good,” she said, cutting me off. “I’m not mad anymore, I decided. Let’s go drive around and get high. Chelsea has her dad’s van.”
             My mom was in the kitchen, cleaning up from dinner. “I’m going out with Nicole and Chelsea for a little bit,” I told her on our way out.
             “Have fun!” she said. Normally my mom would want to know how long I’d be gone, and when I’d be back, but you could tell she was just thrilled to see me with my old friends. She never said anything, but I knew she’d been concerned, wondering where they’d disappeared to.
             Nicole gave me shotgun, and she got in the backseat. Chelsea drove to the end of the cul-de-sac and pulled over. “We’ll just smoke right here,” she said. We both climbed in the back with Nicole. It was one of those VW vans with the seats facing each other like a living room.
             “Do you have any weed?” Chelsea said.
             “No.” I didn’t know I was supposed to bring any.
             “It’s okay,” Nicole said. “We have some.”
             “Cool,” I said.
             We sat there. No one got out weed or a pipe. “Are you ready?” Nicole said finally. She was smiling, but she looked pissed.
             She punched me before I could answer. At first I didn’t know what had happened. My head whacked the side of the van. Things went black, and then very bright, and then the world stilled for a second. My eyes were watering and my nose dripped blood. Nicole was laughing at me. My head began to throb.
             I could hear the door slide open. “Get the fuck out,” Nicole said, and I did, stumbling, catching my foot on a seatbelt, one hand over my nose.
             “Whore,” she said, and spat at me. She missed, and it landed at my feet. The sun was almost down, and some of the blood from my nose dripped through my fingers, and I watched it fall, landing so it mixed with her spit.

Juliet Escoria is a dumb bitch and a mongoose. Her story collection, Black Cloud, will be released next spring from Civil Coping Mechanisms. julietescoria.com

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