BY JJ WOMACK
Lacey points to a pink scattering in the sky as she pockets the lipstick from my purse and I pretend not to notice. “They won’t tell you this,” she says, folding her arms over herself, “but the devil as we know him isn’t one person at all. There are, like, twenty-seven of him.” I have always been a half step behind her in pace and today is no different.
There are only a few students waiting at the bus stop once we arrive and the heaviness of my textbooks weigh on the straps of my shoulders and I am reminded of the boy who cracked his spine. Lacey doesn’t own a backpack. She, at times, has her school items delivered, but this happens no more than twice a month. “He isn’t even a man,” Lacey says. “He’s a woman. We’re all women, actually.”
I settle into a seat next to the window, fifth row from the back to teeter between the nonchalant and the studious. Lacey climbs over me and I am relegated to the aisle once more. “And he wears bubble-gum pink nail polish and MAC lip gloss the color of blush,” she says as she removes a shimmering gold pocket mirror from her own purse. “I think it’s called Blushhh! It’s something like $20 at those chain department stores, but he just orders them online and has them delivered to his P.O. Box.” Her last words trail off as the mirror pops open and she catches her reflection, mesmerized by her own beauty. Her mouth gapes open as she masterfully applies my lipstick onto her lips. She accentuates her cupid’s bow and puckers the soft pink flesh. I can’t decide if I want to smudge her work or kiss her deeply.
“He wears a short and shiny pink bobbed wig like Natalie Portman’s in Closer,” she continues. She looks out the window as she hands me back my lipstick, nearly dropping it onto the small space between us. “He lounges in overgrown pink rose petals, clinging to the necks of dead flamingos and snacking on pink Peeps while wearing a salmon-colored Polo pullover sweater repeating phrases like ‘so cliché!’ over and over until he’s pink in the face.”
The back of Lacey’s head obscures the integrals and derivatives on the board and I study the fishtail braid I could never fully execute. She sits in the front row so our AP Calculus teacher can glimpse at her exfoliated knees peeking from underneath her pleated skirt. I sit in the middle rows and the boy who wheezes heavily and pulls his shirt down over his back every few minutes turns to me and hands me an intricately folded piece of college-ruled paper.
I open it carefully to read Lacey’s cursive handwriting: He thinks his thighs are too fat so he cut out eating medium-rare steaks, which is really too bad because steak is delicious. I re-fold the note incorrectly and look up to catch Lacey’s left eye, which winks at me.
My shoes are scuffed and I loiter outside of Lacey’s locker opposite of melancholic white Jesus hanging on the cross. She takes my hand. “He’s on a diet now and eats salads with raspberries and strawberries with the skin peeled off.” She won’t let go and I am led into the boys’ locker room where there is too large a difference between the skeletal bodies of the prepubescent and the toned bodies of men. Together it creates pheromone frenzy that catches my attention but stirs no emotion. “Some people think the devil is at work in all of those third-world countries, but really, he’s just a kinky bastard,” she says.
The boys whistle and flex their mostly nonexistent muscles. Lacey leads us to the showers where she sticks her head in and offers me the view. I decline. She roves her eyes around until she gets what she came for and squeezes my hand once more. “He takes pictures of his Brazilian-workout booty in those tight boy shorts you can get from Victoria’s Secret and puts them online. I’ve seen them.” One of the boys, a sophomore, reaches out his hand and grazes Lacey’s breast and she doesn’t seem to mind. I run my tongue over my teeth, tasting for traces of lipstick. “His butt is bigger than yours, if you can imagine,” she says.
I marvel at how she manages to avoid perspiring with all her acrobatics and dancing, but she is barely out of breath as she trots up to me after the pep rally. “He’s super self-conscious about it and swims at least eight laps a day in an Olympic-sized pool of pink champagne,” she says. She takes a swig off of my water bottle and I drink right after her, watching her eyes blink and her tongue wag. “It’s a consequence of separation anxiety,” she adds.
Lacey’s bony wrist juts from her body and a car immediately pulls over to the shoulder. The man looks like such a sad case of stereotypical pedophile-rapist-killer that I doubt he could ever go through with such an act. We don’t wear our seatbelts in the backseat and the man asks us questions while looking through his rearview mirror and we ignore him. I imagine my escape plan of tucking and rolling going sixty-five miles per hour on the highway. I imagine pulling Lacey out and folding hear underneath me. “People think he tried to lead Eve astray, but he just wanted a friend,” Lacey whispers into my ear and I can feel the color of my lipstick touch my skin and I close my eyes.
At the mall I watch Lacey flirt with one of the many men who have become enamored by her quixotic looks and absentmindedly abandon their temporary after- school responsibilities as she pockets yet another lipstick, as if mine weren’t enough. We move through the aisles. “It wasn’t an apple, by the way, it was cotton candy,” she says.
My mother picks me up and I look out the side-view mirror to see Lacey bouncing up and down waving good-bye.
I am eating bland mashed cauliflower and baked pork chops with my mother, father, and brother when I receive a series of texts from someone who I know will be Lacey. It vibrates and the whole table knows. I put the phone onto my lap and look down.
Anyway, I guess being left alone made him angry, says the first text.
You know what they say about adding blood to purity. Or, that’s how the saying goes, says the second text.
My mother reminds me that the dinner table is not the time for cellphones. I put the phone away and the house phone rings. My mother goes to answer. She stands in the doorway allowing the coiled cord to wrap itself around the blue pastel wall-paint color and calls my name. She hands the phone to me saying it is an emergency.
“Casebook insecurity,” Lacey says on the other end of the phone. “Murders and betrayals and disease and envy and bad luck all to appease a lonely aging man. Everything is about sex, that’s why he does it. Hell is nothing but a big vagina,” she says and hangs up. I replace the phone onto the receiver and join my family at the table.
“What was that all about?” my mother asks.
“Nothing,” I say, and sprinkle salt and pepper onto my cauliflower.
JJ Womack is a writer and researcher living in Prince George’s County, Maryland. Her work appears or is forthcoming in Gone Lawn and FLAPPERHOUSE.
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