You’ve finessed an invitation to your crush’s house. It wasn’t hard. Your best friend (is she your best friend, do you have a best friend?) was invited, she mentioned it, and now you’re going too. Not difficult. Choosing what to wear is worse. You’ve put on and taken off more clothes than you wear in a week, than you own, and okay you borrowed half from your sister, Layla, because she dresses better than you or that’s what everyone thinks. But exposing your innie belly button feels weird. And what’s the point of sleeves with slashes in them?
You wear jeans and a t-shirt, like any other day, because she can’t know you’re trying too hard, not for her, or the whole night will be super awkward and maybe the other girls will catch on and then your locker will be tagged like Susan Hannigan’s was last year. The word LEZZIE dripping pink paint down the red metal. Everyone pointing and whispering, until the janitor scrubbed it off. No one saw him do it, but it was gone the next day, repainted, a brighter red than all the other, old red lockers. Somehow its blank brightness was worse than the graffiti.
There is pizza and pop music and dancing and prancing. Abbie Prentiss, who seemed normal, who spends a lot of time in the library, is shaking her ass like she’s getting paid. Your crush, the host, is watching, laughing. Her hair is curled into stiff waves tonight and she wears a lip gloss that looks very sticky, like it could catch and trap and smother small insects. You look away.
There is a scary movie and gossip, about people you hardly know though you’ve gone to school with them for eleven years. Finally, girls troop to the bathrooms in twos and threes and brush their teeth and make a show of removing makeup. You wash your face with the hand soap there and brush your teeth with travel-sized mint toothpaste you took from your Dad’s travel kit. She enters, dressed in her pajamas, a pair of tiny shorts and a tight tank top. You brush harder, faster.
“I hate brushing my teeth,” she confesses. “It feels like such a waste of time, you know? Like, we only have so much time to be alive and we have to spend days of it brushing our teeth.” She starts brushing. You are dazed. Her breasts are visible under that top. She must be cold, and now you have to leave. You spit into the sink, mumble, and leave. You crawl into your sleeping bag. The lights go out.
So many whispers and giggles and “stop!”s. But then, at last, it’s quiet and you breathe, in and out. You are on the slippery slope of sleep, about to slide down into darkness when her breath tickles your face and she whispers, “Tell me a story.”
When did she get next to you? Wasn’t Patty on that side?
“A story?” you repeat in a low whisper.
“Yes, a story. A bedtime story.” She wriggles closer and a strand of her hair tickles your cheek and you dare not move.
What story? Your mind has frozen, it’s a blank screen, like when your computer crashes.
You don’t know what to do, but you are speaking before you know it, before you realize you’ve figured it out.
“Once upon a time,” you begin.
“A fairy tale,” she says, and she doesn’t sound annoyed or disappointed.
“Once upon a time, there was a princess who hated to brush her teeth.”
You can feel her smile, in the dark.
“So she stopped.”
“Yup. And her breath grew foul and dark, like when you drink coffee and don’t brush. And all the princes who wanted her left the castle and married other princesses. But the castle’s magician’s apprentice didn’t leave. She worked on a potion. A potion the princess could drink after breakfast and dinner that would clean her teeth and take no time so the princess wouldn’t waste days of her lives on oral hygiene. So she gave the princess the potion and it worked.”
“I see,” she says. “And then what happened?”
“They lived happily ever after, never brushing their teeth again.”
She laughs, very quiet and says, “I liked that story. I want another.”
You reach out and touch her side because it’s the first bit of flesh your fingers find and you say, very softly, “One story per night. Those are the rules.”
This post was written for the person who visits the Dead Darlings blog using the search terms:
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It isn’t what you wanted, exactly. I know. But much like a wish granted by a genie, these things have a way of being reinterpreted by the wish grantor.
And, since I am a generous genie, the formula for bedtime stories for your crush is hero/heroine (your crush) + personal details you know about him/her – any current boyfriend/girlfriend they have + you = success.