All the Rage by Courtney Summers
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to susan summers,
my favorite feminist.
i love you, mom.
thanks for everything.
the boy is beautiful.
She wants him to look at her.
Look at me, look at me, look at me.
Look at her. She’s young, she’s vital, she’s a star in the sky. She’s agonized over this night, agonized over every second of getting ready, like the perfect combination of clothes and makeup will unlock the secrets of the universe. Sometimes it feels like that much is at stake.
She has never been hungrier in her life.
You look perfect, her best friend, Penny, says, and that’s all she needs to hear to feel worthy of the six-letter name she’s tattooed on her heart. Penny would know about perfect. Penny’s got the kind of face and body that stops traffic, turns heads, leaves people open-mouthed, in awe. The kind of pretty that makes you prettier just by being close to it and she’s always close to it, because they’re close. Secret-keeping close.
Thank you, she says. She’s never had a best friend before, let alone been one. It’s a strange feeling, to have a place. Like there was an empty spot beside another (perfect) girl, just waiting for her. She pulls at her skirt, adjusts the thin straps of her top. It feels like too much and not enough at the same time.
Do you really think he’ll like it?
Yeah. Now don’t do anything stupid.
Is this stupid? It’s so much later now and beautiful, beautiful, she’s saying to the boy because she can’t seem to shut up. She has had one, no, two, no, three-four shots and this is what happens when that much drinking happens. She says things like, you are so beautiful. I just really wanted to tell you that.
The boy is beautiful.
Thank you, he says.
She reaches clumsily across the table and threads her fingers through his hair, enjoying the feel of his dark curls. Penny sees this happen somehow, sees through the wall of an entirely different room where she’s been wrapped around her boyfriend because suddenly, she’s there, saying, don’t let her drink anymore.
I won’t, the boy promises.
It makes her feel warm, being looked out for. She tries to articulate this with her numb tongue, but all that comes out: is this stupid? Am I stupid?
You’re one drink away, Penny says, and laughs at the stricken expression this news inspires. Penny hugs her, tells her not to worry about it, whispers in her ear before disappearing back behind her wall, but he’s looking at you.
Look at her.
Six-seven-eight-nine shots later and she’s thinking oh no because she is going to puke. He walks her through his house, guides her away from the party.
You want to get some air? You want to lie down?
No, she wants her best friend because she worries she is so many drinks past stupid now and she doesn’t know what to do about that.
It’s okay. I’ll get her. But first you should lie down.
There’s a truck, a classic pickup pride and joy. There’s the truck’s bed, and the cold shock of it against her back makes her shiver. The stars above move or maybe it’s the earth, that slow and sure turning of the earth. No. It’s the sky and it’s speaking to her.
Close your eyes.
He waits. He waits because he’s a nice boy. A blessed boy. He’s on the football team. His father is the sheriff and his mother sits at the top of a national auto supply chain and they are both so proud.
He waits until he can’t wait anymore.
She thinks he’s beautiful. That’s enough.
The hard ridges of the truck bed never warm under her body but her body is warm. He feels everything under her shirt before he takes it off.
Look at me, look at me, hey, look at me.
He wants her to look at him.
Her eyes open slowly. His tongue parts her lips. She’s never felt so sick. He explores the terrain of her body while he pretends to negotiate the terms.
You want this, you’ve always wanted this and we’re not going that far, I promise.
Really? His hands are everywhere and he’s a vicious weight on top of her that she can’t breathe against so she cries instead, and how do you get a girl to stop crying?
You cover her mouth.
No, I’m not there … I’m not there anymore. That was a long time ago, a year ago, and that girl—I’m not her again. I can’t be.
I’m in the dirt. I’m on my hands and my knees and I’m crawling in it, what I came from. I don’t remember standing, don’t remember ever being a thing that could stand. Just this dirt, this road. I opened my mouth to it, tasted it. It’s under my fingernails. A night passed from the ground. Now it’s early morning and I’m thirsty.
A dry wind moves through the trees off the road beside me, stirring their leaves. I dredge up spit to wet my swollen lips and lick my bloodstained teeth. It’s hot out, the kind of heat that creeps up on you and makes mirages on the road. The kind that shrivels the elderly and carries them into the waiting, open arms of death.
I roll onto my back. My skirt rides up my legs. I pull at my shirt and find it open, feel my bra unclasped. I fumble buttons through holes, covering myself even though it is so. Hot. I can’t. I touch my fingertips to my throat. Breathe.