The story so far: After Allison’s attempt at kindness by giving sad sack Charlie his first kiss backfired, she was ready to leave Eric’s party. But the romantic philosophizing of two stoners and the kind words of Gwen convinced Allison to stay. If anyone deserves to have a good time tonight, it’s Allison. But will she? The year is 1987.
Mary Timms taps her hands on the dining room table, trying to keep with the beat of the drums to Joan Jett’s “Light of Day.” Gwen and I are sitting with Mary and a few of our teammates from the soccer team. Hope is Mary’s best friend and lapdog, and Courtney, who’s a snob, but Gwen likes her so I bite my tongue whenever I’m around her. As for Mary, she has a reputation of sleeping her way through the football team and dominates every conversation she’s a part of.
Mary and Courtney are reminiscing about 7th and 8th grade and the kissing games they played at their first boy/girl parties, the kind of games I never played because I wasn’t at any of those parties. I know the games, though: Spin the Bottle, Seven Minutes in Heaven, Truth or Dare.
“Let’s play now!” Mary exclaims.
“Spin the Bottle?” Hope asks, incredulous.
“No, Truth or Dare. Duh?” Mary spits out.
“Oh, right,” Hope replies, quietly.
Gwen and I agree to participate, although I’m more reluctant than her. Mary’s eyes narrows as she looks around the room. A smile creeps across her face. “Hope, I dare you to French kiss…” Hope hangs on Mary’s last word, anticipating the worst. “Him!” Mary shouts.
She points to a gangly, pimple-faced freshman with thick glasses and braces. Josh or Jeff or Jerry or something. He plays clarinet in the band. Josh or Jeff or Jerry is hanging in a corner, dressed in a pair of cargo pants and a T-shirt with Bullwinkle the Moose on it, giggling with one of his fellow freshman buddies (name unknown).
“You suck,” Hope declares. She downs the remains of her wine cooler, stands, determined, and walks over to the two freshmen. We can’t hear what she’s saying, but Josh or Jeff or Jerry looks around in a “who me?” kind of way before Hope places her hands on the sides of his face and begins to kiss him. Name Unknown Freshman’s jaw drops as he watches Hope shove her tongue in and out of his friend’s mouth. The kiss lasts at least thirty seconds before Hope ends it and turns around. The two freshman boys are speechless and stumble into the kitchen laughing, probably the best moment in their short lives. Hope sits down triumphantly, and the rest of us applaud.
“What did you say to him?” Gwen wants to know.
“Asked him his name, and then told him I was going to rock his world.”
“What’s his name?” I ask.
“Josh… or Jeff, no Jerry, or something.”
We all laugh.
“Courtney?” Mary asks, raising an eyebrow.
Courtney’s eyes go wide. “Truth!”
“Boo!” Hope shouts.
“Now, now,” Mary says, motioning her to relax.
“Where’s the weirdest place…” Mary’s voice dips to a whisper, “…you ever got it on with a guy.”
Courtney’s eyes go wider.
“And I know the answer to this, so you can’t lie.”
Courtney shakes her head, annoyed. “Fine. It was Reg Thompson, in the video store where he works.”
“Details, Courtney, that’s the way the game is played.”
Mary has a certain look of glee in her eyes, as if humiliating her friends brings her pleasure. Courtney stews, sips her drink, and then calmly explains.
“He was closing the store for the night, and I stopped by after the mall closed. He let me in, and we flirted, like we always do. I picked up the box to some movie I recognized, and the next thing you know, Reg is breathing down the back of my neck, scaring the living shit out of me. He laughed and I started hitting him and he grabbed my arms to stop me. I was, like, helpless, and then suddenly, we were kissing. And the next thing you know, I was pressed against the wall and our hands were all over each other.”
“Wait,” Gwen interrupts, “you mean…”
“Right there?” Hope continues.
“In the front of the store?” I finish.
“In front of the window!” Mary laughs.
Courtney shrugs, unembarrassed.
“Did he?” Hope asks.
Courtney shrugs again.
We collectively scream and laugh.
“You’re next, Gwen.”
Gwen is notoriously tight lipped about her exploits, so I know exactly what she’s going to choose.
“Okay,” Mary contemplates.
“Wait,” I say, “Why do you get to decide? Why doesn’t Courtney get to? She was the last to go.”
“Allison, come on,” Hope whines, “Mary’s got the best ideas.” That’s just like her to side with Mary.
I fold my arms and sigh. Mary then lifts her cup, a 7-11 collectable with the Cleveland Browns helmet on it, and spits in it. She passes it to Hope and nods to her. Hope spits in the cup and then hands the cup to Courtney. Courtney proceeds to let a dripping loogie descend from her lips into the dregs of Mary’s Fuzzy Navel. The cup is handed to me.
“This is stupid,” I declare.
“Are you in or out, Allison?”
“Come on, Allison, spit in the cup.”
I look at Gwen with concern. “Gwen, this is gross.”
“It’s fine, go ahead,” she shrugs.
I shake my head, and then quickly spit in the cup, as little as possible. Gwen takes it from me and has the sudden realization that maybe this wasn’t a good idea.
“Give me something to put in here,” she tells us.
“Oh come on, chicken,” Mary taunts.
“Mary,” I retort, “there are food particles in there, and I think cigarette ashes.”
Hope and Courtney share a look, nervous to stand up to Mary. I stare at Mary, making her aware that I’m not going to let my best friend puke over some stupid dare. Finally, Mary relents.
“Fine. I’ll be right back.”
She walks into the kitchen. I turn to Gwen.
“Gwen,” I say, as if telling her there’s still time to back out.
“It’ll be okay.”
Mary returns with a new cup (this one with our high school mascot, a wolf), a bottle of peach schnapps, an egg, a jar of pickles and some Tabasco sauce. She pours the schnapps, and it glugs into the cup until it’s a quarter full. Then, she adds the egg, tosses in a couple shots of the Tabasco, and finally, pours in half the pickle juice from the jar. Mary sloshes around the disturbing concoction. Hope gets a nauseous look on her face.
“That’s better,” she says.
“You can’t be serious, Mary,” I say, my voice slightly rising. I’m starting to get worked up.
“Why don’t you chill, Allison. Gwen’s a big girl.”
Mary has turned into a demonic bitch.
“Fine,” Gwen declares. She lifts the cup and takes a deep breath. Gwen then sucks it down in two gulps. She holds her hand over her mouth, gagging. The three other girls whoop it up. I lean over to Gwen, and she motions to me that she’ll be fine. Mary stares with devious eyes. I guess she’s always had this mean streak; we all didn’t recognize it. Or worse, we saw it and disregarded it as Mary being Mary.
“Truth or dare, Allison,” she asks, more a challenge than a friendly question.
I want to tell Mary to suck it, but I take a look at Gwen, still close to hurling, and I know that I can’t back out. After a long pause, I decide on…
And I regret my choice the instant I see her face light up.
“Why did you have a meltdown? What was that all about?”
Gwen is pissed. “Mary!”
I place my hand on Gwen’s knee to assure her that I can handle it. I’m ready for this; I’ve been ready, but no one has had the guts to ask me. I look Mary right in the eye and begin.
“I was depressed. I’d been bottling up my emotions. The pressure built, and everything just kind of blew.”
Mary scrutinizes me.
“That’s the truth, Mary. I’m sorry it isn’t more scandalous.”
“Well, that’s not so bad,” Hope says.
“You know, Allison,” Mary starts, “it’s funny. I heard different.”
“And what did you hear?”
“That Brian banged you in Washington D.C. and that you got pregnant and had to have it taken care of.”
My stomach drops. That’s what people have been saying about me?
“That’s a crock of shit!” Gwen exclaims.
“It’s what I heard,” Mary replies, reclining in her chair.
I have to choose my words very carefully.
“That’s not what happened, Mary. Brian and I never hooked up. We’re just friends. That’s it.”
Hope and Courtney slowly turn their nervous gazes to Mary. Suddenly, Mary pounces.
“Which hurt worse, when he fucked your brains out or when the doctor had to–”
Gwen shouts, “Mary, that’s enough!”
Mary sneers, “Stop defending her, Gwen.”
Gwen points her finger. “You are so out of line.”
Mary shouts back, “Well, if she has nothing to hide, then why doesn’t she–”
I jump to my feet and reach across the table, grabbing Mary by her shirt. Her eyes bug out, scared. Words come out of my mouth so fast I can’t stop them. It’s like a movie. I’m watching myself have a big dramatic moment, and I can’t leave the movie theater.
“You want to know what happened, Mary? I had a nervous breakdown. I was busting my ass to get straight A’s so I could be on National Honor Society because we’re broke. That’s right. My dad gambled away all of our money, and now I have to find a way to pay for college on my own. I mean, my mom sure as hell can’t. She’s too busy trying to earn enough at her shitty job to keep our house, pay the bills, and pay for all of the wine she needs just to sleep through the night. Tell me, Mary, have you ever had to clean up your mom after she’s thrown up on herself? It isn’t pretty. And then there’s my older sister, who doesn’t care about any of this and is distancing herself from our family. Who am I supposed to turn to? Who really wants to listen to me go on about how my brain hiccupped and the world is an insane place and we’re all lucky to be living and we should all hold on to the ones we love or who love you because tomorrow it could all end? Huh? You? Who didn’t even care to come and visit me in the hospital even though we’ve played soccer together for ten years? Don’t you see? This town, this place is crushing me. It’s… it’s…”
Tears are streaming down my cheeks, but I’ve cried so much in these past few months that I don’t feel it anymore. Their stares are what’s painful. Mary and Hope have horrified looks on their faces. Courtney’s lip is trembling. And Gwen, dear Gwen, is crying as hard as I am.
I flee, unsure exactly where I’m going. I run upstairs and enter the first open door I find: Eric’s bedroom. Slamming the door closed, I lock it behind me. I lean against the wall and slide down to the floor. With me head against me knees, I begin sobbing.
I flipped out in the middle of the party. Everyone must have seen it, or at least heard it. What will they think of me now?
Oh God. Oh God. Oh God.
I need to transfer to another school. That’s what I’ll do. Then I won’t have to face Mary or the stares in the halls or Kate ever again.
Someone knocks at the door.
Gwen tries turning the handle.
“Ally, unlock the door.”
“Go away, Gwen,” I say flatly.
“Go away. Please.”
Through the gap between the door and the floor, I see her shadow move away. I want to be alone, at least for a few minutes.
What a night.
I lean my head back and sit on the floor of Eric’s room staring at the Francois Truffaut movie poster on his wall, while downstairs someone is playing the Beastie Boys on the stereo.
Today’s artwork was by Santino Lascano. Santino is a background designer working in television animation. He has worked on shows for Cartoon Network and Dreamworks, among others. For more information, visit santinolascano.tumblr.com
Previous Chapters: Chapter 22, Chapter 21, Chapter 20, Chapter 19, Chapter 18, Chapter 17, Chapter 16, Chapter 15, Chapter 14, Chapter 13, Chapter 12, Chapter 11, Chapter 10, Chapter 9, Chapter 8, Chapter 7, Chapter 6, Chapter 5, Chapter 4, Chapter 3, Chapter 2, Chapter 1, Introduction
Read Chapter 24 of Legendary.