This morning, after second period had started and they were safely alone, Jane decided she needed to lose weight, and promptly shoved two fingers down her throat in the girl’s bathroom.
It was, of course, Apology Monday. After spending two days straight getting stoned and drunk until four in the morning, Mondays were the days Kendra and Jane spent making amends. They did everything they could to balance out the damage they did on the weekends: getting facials, doing homework, and sometimes eating nothing but fruit and granola in lieu of all the junk they ate on Saturdays and Sundays.
It had been this way for almost a year, after Jane transferred to Kendra’s high school from Saint Anthony’s, a private academy clear across the other side of the state. For over a month, Kendra wondered what this meant for her. Jane was very pretty, the kind of tiny, vulnerable pretty that made guys trip all over themselves, offering to carry her books and walk her to class. The sudden shift in attention threw Kendra off, and for a while she couldn’t help but feel jealous. But after she found Jane hiding in the school computer lab, eating lunch alone, she realized what they both needed was a friend.
Every couple of weeks Jane came up with some plan to Better Herself and Be A More Productive Person. The bulimia was today’s venture, and Kendra wanted no part in it. She knew Jane believed they were bad people from the way they spent their off time.
But as Kendra saw it, if she really was going to hell, then she might as well enjoy the ride.
She stood outside Jane’s stall rolling a joint while she listened to Jane puke her guts out. For a full minute, Jane wiggled her fingers inside her mouth, gagging and heaving, not stopping until every trace of food was emptied out of her stomach and all she could taste was bile. Once she was done, she glanced at her hand, now disgusting and slimy, and said, “Wow, that was a bad idea.”
Outside of the stall, she heard a soft snort, followed by, “You think?”
Jane thought about that. It had not been as easy as she had thought. The way they portrayed it on Lifetime, bulimia was the weight loss measure of choice for girl her age, but in fact her throat was now raw from the stress of her fingers, and it was only this one time.
Now that she was done, her stomach was tied up in cramps. Her mouth was full of that sickening sweet taste of vomit, and what was worse, she was starting to feel the familiar pangs of hunger, which completely defeated the purpose of what she had just done.
She stood on shaky legs and walked out of the stall, straight to the sink and mirror. She looked awful. Her face was pasty and her eyes were bloodshot, and there was a nasty layer of sweat on her forehead.
Why did other girls do this shit, she asked herself. She couldn’t understand. THIS was better than being fat?
She washed her face and rinsed out her mouth, digging her last stick of gum out of her book bag, slightly crushed and bent from sitting under her well worn copy of The Great Gatsby. It wasn’t as good as brushing her teeth, but it would have to do.
Jane looked up at Kendra. She knew Kendra would never repeat any of this; they were partners in crime after all, and they both knew bigger secrets about each other than this. Still, Jane knew the little fucker was laughing on the inside, even if she only looked back innocently.
Kendra handed Jane a joint, a smile on her face. “Here,” she said. “You’re smoking your own.”
* * *
They walked out of school without a problem. They were easily the two smartest girls in school, and that in itself was a Get Out Of Jail Free Card. But even then, people knew better than to stop Kendra. In her freshman year alone, Kendra got into nine fights, one for every month of the school year, but her school record showed no evidence of that. Kendra suspected that it was easier to hide that evidence than to explain why the star valedictorian had a taste for violence.
Kendra had an analytical mind that would make any scientific researcher die of jealousy. It was bred out of self preservation: When your father was the King of Mean Drunks, it was prudent to learn a few survival tactics. She had used her mind to avoid trouble, dodging fights and abuse by distracting, talking, and calculating. But after a while that wasn’t enough. Oftentimes, her father just wanted a punching bag, period, and Kendra had no choice but to start fighting back.
After a few broken noses and ribs, Daddy Dearest learned to leave her alone, and Kendra only came home when she absolutely had to.
Kendra made no apologies for herself. She was smart, and she was pretty, and she had very quickly grown tired of trying to hide it. While other girls her age had learned to play coy and bat their eyelashes, Kendra would walk into any room with her head held high, knowing full well that she was probably the smartest person there. And that pissed off a lot of people.
It was the biggest difference between her and Jane: Jane believed in social responsibility and helping her fellow man. Kendra wanted nothing more than to set the world on fire.
They walked for a few blocks in silence, looking for a car to boost. The business district was Kendra’s favorite spot to hunt. It was full of vast parking lots full of unattended toys, sometimes for days.
She had been boosting cars since she hit puberty. It was one of the few useful things her father had taught her. She could take an engine apart and put it back together without breaking a sweat, and could change a tire in seconds flat. No car was off limits. For years she had done it without finesse, ripping manifolds, breaking car windows and jamming screwdrivers. Then a friend taught her how to fashion a Magic Key, which, done right, could start any Honda or Acura manufactured before 1995. Now, at the end of their day the owner would get his car back with a full tank of gas and a pre-typed thank you note (Jane’s idea), and no harm done.
“That one,” she said, pointing at a car a few feet ahead. It was exactly what they needed: a 1990 Acura, dark green. Within seconds they were in the car. They were in luck. The AC was still good and just by turning the key Kendra could tell it had a recent tune up. I’ll take care of you, she thought, putting the car in reverse out of the parking stall.
With a little luck, they could have the car back before anyone noticed.
“I have something to show you,” Kendra said once they were out of the parking lot. Jane stretched out in the passenger seat and nodded, watching the road ahead, and they drove off.
* * *
They drove for an hour, talking and laughing the way best friends do. Jane was in charge of rolling while Kendra drove. The weed was the only vice they couldn’t seem to give up on Apology Mondays. Kendra was on such high alert all the time, sometimes working on three different trains of thought at the same time, and the weed was the only thing that helped her relax.
Jane simply enjoyed the way it made her body hum.
If she had been paying attention maybe she would have noticed that this time Kendra was behaving differently. She had a certain manic energy on her that usually disappeared when she was high, but after an hour it was still there, and Jane began to worry.
It was then that she noticed where they were. She thought she had blocked the memory, thought it didn’t affect her anymore, but once she noticed the familiar buildings and streets she began to panic, and it showed.
“Kendra,” was all she said before Kendra put a hand firmly on her knee and squeezed it. She had a plan, but that didn’t mean Jane had to like it. Finally, they pulled up to a residential street and turned the car off.
Kendra pointed to a house and simply said, “Watch.”
There they sat. Jane knew where they were. Even though she had never seen the house herself the Dean had described it to her so many times that she knew from memory. She didn’t know what Kendra was waiting for, but she was watching the house intently, not wanting to miss anything. Finally, after a few minutes she saw: a girl, her clothes looking disheveled, walked around the side of the house and disappeared behind a few trees. If she had blinked she would have missed it. It was her red hair that gave her away.
For a moment Jane wanted to die. She didn’t know the girl, had no idea what she looked like, but didn’t doubt that she was beautiful.
This is what Kendra wanted her to see.
“How old is she?” She asked, knowing Kendra knew the answer and more. There wasn’t an email address Kendra couldn’t hack, no computer she couldn’t remotely access with a few key strokes and a bit of imagination.
“Fourteen,” Kendra replied. Then she sighed, hating that she had to say it out loud. “She gave in. He’s been bragging about how easy it was.”
Jane took a shaky breath. They didn’t talk much about what happened to her, but Kendra knew the whole story: the way the Dean had hit on Jane, first acting like a proud teacher, and then slowly finding excuses to touch her, to catch her alone. At first Jane had loved the attention. In a school full of over achievers it was easy to get lost in the shuffle, and it felt nice having someone’s approval. But then she realized she was being manipulated, and after the Dean had tried to shove his short, chubby fingers up her skirt, she couldn’t hide her disgust.
He called her a cunt, a tease, a brat. Every name in the book so that Jane felt like she had asked for this herself, even thought she was only a kid and nearly thirty years his junior. And before she knew it, before she could wrap her head around what had happened, a mysterious bottle of Ritalin was discovered in her dorm, and she was expelled.
That was a year ago today.
“Let’s kill him,” Jane said. As soon as the words were out of her mouth she knew she had never meant anything more. Kendra moved like lightning and grabbed her book bag from the back seat, opening it for the very first time. There she had gloves, tape, everything one would need to kidnap a person and more.
They stepped out of the car and put on the gloves nonchalantly, talking like it was a regular Monday afternoon.
“This is one of those neighborhoods where people don’t lock their doors, right?” Kendra asked.
Kendra shook her head.”Weird.”
Jane laughed at that. Sometimes she forgot where Kendra came from, even if it was sometimes as plain as day.
They walked up to the porch as Kendra rang the doorbell. She had met versions of the Dean all her life, men who went entire lifetimes hurting girls, not stopping until someone started fighting back.
Jane sighed. “I’m hungry,” she finally said out loud.
Kendra wrapped an arm around her and kissed her on the cheek. “We’ll get something to eat after.”