Ten minutes till.
The clock beside my mattress flings every spent second into my lap, nudging me so much closer to whatever is about to happen. Mom can’t be bothered with it; she’s passed out in the next room, oblivious to my escape into night. And even though I’m certain I’ll be home long before sunlight splits the dark, my body still bristles with something akin to static electricity, a tight anxiety over knowing I’ll surely be found out. And it really doesn’t matter; I’ve been caught before.
Shadows engorged with blackness lurk like thugs in the corners of our backyard; delicate dew blankets the grass like the blood of others foolish enough to go before me.
That’s what it’s really all about, isn’t it?
My mind sports with competing scenarios of what I hope might happen and what I pray will not—Lord knows I don’t need any more lectures regarding proper behavior for a young lady.
Five minutes till.
What if they don’t show? Suppose this is all just a well-played joke, with me as its shiny white butt?
But this is Molly we’re talking about—faithful Molly.
Mom’s old sneakers swallow my feet in a comforting fit. The back door whines protest against my departure. Nobody steps forward to quash my moment. I’m all alone.
A lustful breeze plays peekaboo with my nightshirt and soothes my heat. I’m bare underneath. That’s the part that excites me most: knowing the only thing standing between me and the real world is a thin scrap of white cotton.
The street out front offers neither light nor sound, as if nothing decent dares occupy such a miserable piece of earth but Donnington Trailer Park and the white-trash misfits it spawns. That’s what kids at school call me: white trash. That, and Icky Nicky.
My given name is Nicole—Nicole Lynn Robishawl. I can’t quite peg the origins of a name like Robishawl, but I’d bet a hundred bucks its roots lie buried someplace in Europe—the far northern part. I own a headful of blond tangles and uncomplicated blue eyes to prove that theory. And there’s another of those curious little oddities assholes around here like to whisper about when they’re certain I’m not listening: Mom and Dad are both dark-haired and dark-eyed.
Two minutes till.
I reach the crumbling sidewalk and crouch low beside a naked mess of annuals meant to spruce up the front of our trailer. A word like hatred doesn’t begin to tell of my feelings for a shithole like Donnington. We aren’t even supposed to be here, Mom and me. Dad promised to take us in, giving me back my old room, if only there’d be no more drinking. But mom prefers vodka to a husband.
Lightning spatters a silvery web across the sky right above Lincoln High School, and my silent prayer for a direct hit goes unanswered. Dull rumbles chase the flashes, but even thunder can’t match the wicked growl of Tommy Mizvinski’s engine.
A full sixty seconds early!
My frantic dash launches me recklessly toward the corner at the end of my street. Tommy won’t wait. If I’m not there under that lonely streetlight, forget about it. No rave for me.
I’m there before he is, though, quick enough to spy that single headlight slicing open the night—our night. Sweat jogs the course of my spine. My heart swears an oath to knock a hole through my middle. I’ve waited all month to have this moment.
Tommy’s door yawns wide; his lanky body leans forward, offering me the back seat. “Get in, Sped,” he huffs. “They won’t wait around if we’re late.”
Sped. That’s short for special ed. Tommy’s the only one who calls me that—even though I’ve never ridden the short bus.
The lure of this moment sucks me in, puts me close to Molly. Our bodies bump in the darkened back seat, tossing up loose sparks of anxiety. Nervous giggles supply our greetings.
I’m the one who suggested we go to this thing. Faithful Molly, she even tried to talk me out of it. And truth be told, I’d have laid odds on her just staying home. But here she sits, dressed like me—only her nightshirt is pink. I hate pink.
Dale Harvitz rides shotgun. That lazy eye of his gets all hung up on me the entire trip—as if I’d even consider the likes of him. Dale is the true sped in this car, not me. But he’s also Tommy’s best friend, which makes him more welcome on this ride than me, so I won’t call him a sped to his zit-covered face.
Still, I’m the one who set this up. “Where are your pajamas?” I ask.
Jeans and T-shirts, that’s what both boys are sporting.
Dale’s the defensive one. “Fuck that noise,” he spits. “I’m not wearing pajamas to a rave.”
I produce the flier, wave it in his pizza face. “That’s the theme. It says so right here.”
“They won’t turn us away, Nicole,” Dale argues. “They hold raves to make money. I’ve got my twenty bucks.”
Tommy has his say, lays down his own law. It’s me and Molly that has him spooked—our ages, that is. “Just don’t go acting like a pair of babies,” he tells us, “and they’ll probably let you two inside.”
Dale lights a Marlboro and eyes Moll and me like he’s starving and we’re medium-rare fresh-off-the-grill. You can just tell his mind is stuck in the muck and sinking fast. “Got twenty bucks says they’re both still bald,” he wagers.
Call it a natural reflex, that way my knees squeeze together. He’ll never know what’s what where those sorts of things are concerned.
Tommy, though—he finds me in the rearview, holds my gaze the way I wish he’d hold my hand, before returning to the road ahead. “Thing like that doesn’t concern me,” is all he says of the matter.
But then he finds me again and goes back to his law. “Either of you girls get pinched,” he orders, “don’t you dare mention my name. Cops raid these things all the time. If they snatch you, tell ’em you snuck out on your own, let ’em take you home.”
I have no intention of getting caught. I’ve waited too long for a night like this one. If we are among the chosen, well, then it’s meant to be; it’s already been tossed up to fate. That’s called providence or something. Anyway, Tommy’s been to half a dozen raves, and none of those were ever raided.
Tommy’s one-eyed Cutlass angles hard onto the shoulder, finds that service road leading away from Summitt Highway. You never drive directly to a rave; there’s a proper etiquette involved. Besides, they won’t let you in if you just show up. Not even for a hundred dollars.
The designated pickup point calls to mind a crop circle at the center of Hatcher Field. A lonely pair of white minivans promise travel to other worlds.
It’s the swirling crowd that yanks at my attention, puts me up on the little secret nobody else in the car has deciphered just yet.
“Let us out,” I demand, kicking at the back of Tommy’s seat. It’s mostly guys doing all that swirling, which means girls are the priority to board those vans. And if Tommy catches on, none of us are going.
Pizza-face Dale pops his door open.
Moll and I spill into the night like twist-cap wine from an overturned Dixie cup. We bolt toward the closest van and ignore Tommy’s orders to wait for him and Dale. But they’re not coming along with us—at least not on this trip. Any fool with eyes can read a scene like the one we’ve tumbled into. Moll and I—we’ll be welcomed on this go-round. And a ride home, well, what did that matter at this moment?
A black guy spies us, waves us over; he lures me and Moll into a void between those white minivans. I recognize him from school, though I doubt if I could come up with a name to match his face if given a dozen guesses.
Dark eyes roll over Molly first, then me. A grin parts his lips, shows off teeth like fine white porcelain. “Freshmen, huh?” he asks.
Neither Moll nor I acknowledge his question; we both offer him our twenty dollars instead.
“Awful eager, ain’t you?” he asks, drifting between us like lazy smoke. “Suppose it ain’t money gonna get you on one of them rides? How bad you wanna go?”
I hear Molly’s voice before words have a chance to form on my own tongue. “Whatever it takes,” she promises.
That’s not the Molly I know.
The Molly I know is far too shy to undress even in front of her own shadow.
That dark gaze of his attaches itself to me. “How about you, Robishawl?” he wonders. “How far are you willing to go?”
Hesitation nearly steals my words—but only for a moment. “I’m with Molly,” I inform him. Just leave it open, let him interpret the meaning.
His grin softens into a familiar thing—almost friendly. “Go on and get in line for communion,” he says.
I’m not even Catholic.
And neither is Molly.
The black guy snatches our money, straps red bracelets around our right wrists, and warns against us taking them off for any reason at all. “That’s the only thing gonna get you inside once you get there.”
This is the part I love most about raves: all that secrecy, the feeling of being someone special, a chosen one.
Moll and I join a small congregation behind those vans, out of sight of Tommy and Dale and every other guy getting left back tonight.
“Kneel for the rites,” orders a skinny white guy sporting stringy black hair down to his shoulders.
The grass, wet with dew, is cool beneath my knees. My head tips back, my mouth falls open, awaiting the chemical sacraments about to be administered.
“Ecstasy,” says our high priest, placing a tablet on my tongue.
I swallow before I can chicken out.
Moll swallows too.
Midnight’s moon splits the clouds just for a moment; it’s large and swollen, shiny as a new dime.
Molly’s lips brush against my ear. “Are you gonna, you know . . . ?” she whispers. Bubblegum-sweetened breath warms my neck.
“I have to do it,” I assure her. “I’m gone past due.”
“We can’t have that,” she says, snatching hold on my hand, yanking me into the van.
* * *
The pull of freedom lures us an hour south of town, out where the old Piven Industrial Park crouches low among tangled weeds and ancient willows long past weeping, forgotten by all but a few hundred ravers.
The van door slides a wide yawn and, like an overfed bulimic, vomits us in front of the warehouse. Familiarity like a scent fills my head. I know some of them, these other girls; upper-class types, mostly; the very sort who’d normally call me Icky Nicky.
But not tonight.
Tonight, everybody’s equal.
Molly’s the eager one. Those small hands of hers clasp my shoulders from behind; she gives me a push inside the oversized building, into a swirl of underdressed boys and girls bumping and rubbing against a thumping beat intent on recalibrating my heart’s natural rhythm.
Lights of yellow and red, blue and green, flash from above like stalking nymphs bent on finding us out.
I pull Molly closer. “Find the water station,” I yell over the din. “Keep hydrated.”
That smile of hers—that’s what makes her Molly. “You picked one already?” she hollers, her small body becoming entangled with that steady beat.
A nod bobbles my head; I leave her there at the edge of a makeshift dance floor alive with hope and boys.
Molly likes boys.
A nameless guy hovers near the door, blue eyes clouded over with that familiar euphoria only a thing like Ecstasy can conjure.
“I’ve been waiting for you,” I tell him, mixing promise with potential.
His fingers find his chest, a gesture meant to convey a Who, me? tone. But words fail the boy’s lips; he’s too far along for conversation.
My hand fits snugly into his. It falls to me to find a private place for us to get through what has to be done. Fine by me; I’ve been this way before, done this sort of thing innumerable times. But there’s never much chase, not like there was when it first started. Back then, well, it was usually the older ones, the perverts, that went for the chase.
“There’s a place around back,” I tell him, pulling the guy into night.
“I wanna touch your hair,” he says, stumbling behind me like a freak on a leash.
Overhead, the spring sky opens wide, clouds flee, leaving us to our shared intimacy.
Beneath the loading docks is where I take the boy, in full view of a witches’ moon—if you’re so inclined to believe in such things.
My lips find his; a sneaky gesture meant only to settle any loose nerves.
Clammy, clumsy hands grope me beneath my nightshirt, finding my body bare and eager—maybe even hungry for such a touch. Had this one been in the car with us to take the bet, he’d have easily taken twenty bucks off Dale.
But tonight isn’t his night.
A quick nip with my incisors opens the skin just below his jaw, exposing the plump jugular. Barely a flinch, is all he offers. Ecstasy makes our moment easy; there’s no room for a fuss.
It’s instinctual, that urge pushing me to rip into that purple vein. His salty rush fills my mouth, stirs a familiar frenzy inside my soul. The boy’s struggles come cheap, a thing most fraudulent. I hold his body tight against the crumbling concrete, draw long and deep on his life until there’s nothing left to take.
They’re beautiful when they fade, so pale and blue, like a years-old rose pressed between the pages of a lost lover’s book of poems.
* * *
Molly is bare beneath her nightshirt. I can tell by the way the pink fabric clings to her sweat-dampened body.
That smile of hers ignites a heated rush through my blood no drug could ever challenge.
“Did you drink any water?” I holler, stepping between her and the Asian kid she’s dancing with.
That’s the thing with Ecstasy: it’ll keep a person moving for hours, without a thought toward maintaining hydration.
And Moll, she won’t stop dancing—not even for necessity. “You’ve fed already?” she yells, keeping pace with that relentless beat.
To tell the truth, I hate dancing. But it’s Molly’s urging that has me folding myself in with her and the Asian boy.
Moll’s hand finds mine, yanks me closer. “Can we take him home with us?” she asks, hopeful in this bold change of plans.
He’s not bad to look at, I suppose—if you’re into that sort of thing.
My head tips a subtle nod. “Gonna have to be quiet, though; can’t wake my mom.”
Yeah, Molly likes boys.
And so do I, I guess.
Just in a different sort of way.