Sadie breathed in the smooth night air through her imperfectly small nose. Her eyes fell on the porcelain skin of Rosemary, the slight girl that stood cautiously next to her. Sadie leaped deftly up the stone steps, knowing that Rosemary would follow soon enough.
She pressed her lavender varnished fingernail into the doorbell, flicking her eyes against the shiny red door that blockaded the doorway. Rosemary was now next to her, silent per usual, like a meek cat.
The lady who pulled open the shiny red door resembled Dean clearly; her flecked brown eyes rested in thick eyelashes, the curls that hung tightly round her face were soft, bronze, and welcoming.
“Downstairs ladies,” she spoke softly, and held her delicate hand toward the basement door.
It was Rosemary who entered first, knowingly and relaxed, her black hair glimmering in the dull light.
“If it isn’t my favorite Asian,” he said, his voice uninterested and casual.
“Dean,” she replied. Her voice cut, deep and sharp.
“Hello, my dude,” Sadie said as she stood, precariously lingering on the last wooden step, testing her luck. She slid off, not in the smooth way, but in the jagged rough way where your rubber soled sneaker catches every wood splinter.
The basement around her smelled of rotting wood and cold, the abrasive scent of cat litter and the warming smell of cinnamon, drifting from a flickering candle in the corner. Sadie scanned the open room, yellow wooden paneled walls, two small windows to the right of the base of the stairs, and an off-white wall to wall carpet that was wearing thin. Underneath the staircase there was a dark, dank closet that sat in dust, heavy with the smell of cat litter. To the left there was another room, closed off with a hinged door that squeaked unpleasantly every time it moved. There were scratches all over the walls, scars on the light yellow wood that ran anxiously up and down each panel. This was unsettling and electric, and Sadie felt the edge immediately.
Dean was still on the couch, but looked up as he saw Sadie enter the room. She was radiant, confident, and glowing. She was untouchable.
Dean envied her obvious strength, and felt his exhaustion pulling him further into the couch. Rosemary hesitantly sat down, her small hands folded neatly in her lap. She was quite familiar with this feeling of not quite being here, but still being present. She merely glanced up as Scott and Paige clunked down the stairs, smelling of the fresh air that lay outside.
“Ladies and gents, what’s up?” announced Scott as he jumped onto the carpet. He promptly sat down on the floor with his bag beside him. He was unusually attractive, a rare specimen in the small town they lived in.
Paige strolled in behind him, innocent and open, knowing she had everything to lose, and everything to gain. She was naturally beautiful, but not in the demanding way Sadie is. She had freckles sprinkled across her cheekbones, and her coarse blonde hair was pulled up into a long ponytail. She had gracious green eyes, but she wore no makeup.
The last to walk in was Grant, always late as he lumbered down the stairs. His tan muscular body was outlined by the tight t-shirt he proudly wore. This confidence, unlike Sadie’s, was fake.
“I have gathered all you losers here for a game of truth or dare. You know the rules, blah blah blah, pretty self explanatory,” droned Dean.
They had now all arranged themselves into a messy circle on the thin carpet, bored as Dean talked.
“I guess I’ll go first,” he said, noting the blank expressions on their faces.
“Rosemary,” he grinned slyly at the silent girl in the corner, who eyed him back with animosity.
“Oh Rosemary, truth or dare?”
In spite, she spit out her answer: “Truth,”
“I dare you to take a shot of the tequila that is in Scott’s bag,” he squinted at her, uncertain of where this risk would take her.
“Bring it,” she demanded, but her small hands were now trembling.
Scott noticed “Come on Dean, she’s Asian. You know how her culture would feel about this? She’s gotta keep those grades up and I bet she has a tiger mom too…” his voice trailed off, but he found himself reaching for the glossy bottle of tequila anyway.
The liquid is poured, and all the high school students watched intently.
She downed it quickly, effortlessly, like she had done it many times before. Suspicion stealthily crept into Sadie’s mind. Her eyes were slits as she set the glass down on the carpet; she looked dauntlessly around the circle.
“Well. Never thought she’d actually do it,” whispered a shocked Dean.
“Screw you Dean,” she seethed back.
“Grant; truth or dare?” she lowered her head. It was now her turn. She had the power, and it instilled a set fear in the pounding hearts around her.
“Dare,” his eyes twitched hesitantly. He knew he could not pick truth, he knew he could not unleash the secret he held.
In her stoic way, she blatantly blurted “kiss Dean.”
The silence slammed into the room, forcing the last ounce of breath out of Grant’s shaky throat. He was avoiding Dean’s milky brown eyes. Rosemary’s dare had gripped onto Grant like no other. She knew. He knew. He knew she knew.
Grant placed his rough palms on the floor and pushed his weight across the circle and onto Dean’s lips. Grant did not pull away immediately, and Dean was struck with confusion as he tore his lips away from the forced confrontation. Grant was red and blazing. One look up and Dean’s inhale of air had suddenly stopped.
The first day of fifth grade: Dean and Grant had met in that stuffy classroom, uncertain and boyish in their youth. They took to each other, working silently together on their silly school projects and playing tag on the playground. “Like peanut butter and jelly,” Mrs. Hannigan had told Dean’s mother. Sixth grade was hard and cruel, and Grant found himself an outcast with his peers. Dean had stuck by him though, and by the time high school had arrived it seemed as if Grant had recovered from the middle school hatred. Dean remembered the time he had entered his room, small, square and blue, and had seen Grant ripping down the poster of Zac Efron from the opposite side. He had hurriedly turned, the crumpled paper crushed into sharp edges beneath his fingers. There were no words spoken about this event. Dean didn’t ask, and Grant didn’t answer. It was junior year now, and Grant had still not mentioned one name of a girl he would date, bang, or otherwise. Yes, he had admitted to one girl or another being visually pleasing, but other than that, there was nothing. And now Dean knew why.
“You’re a f--”
Dean’s father had just killed himself. It was a dark, cold, fierce November day, and Dean was curled up on his bed, drawing himself away. Grant had come into his room, warm and alive, and had enveloped Dean’s hard, lost body in his. Dean had started to sob, slow at first, but heavy and faster as time elapsed. His worn out face fell into Grant’s shoulder, and try as he might, Dean never forgot the support Grant had offered him during that gnarled and ugly time of life. The thing was, Grant had always been there. Quiet, consistent, but always there.
“--funny one, Grant. Ever do that again and I’ll kick your ass,” Dean had caught himself just in the nick of time. Their eyes met, and Dean’s realization slid from his brown eyes to Grant’s hazel ones. Their friendship had taken a sudden turn, and Grant hung his head, his thick, styled hair shooting up. He felt like he might vomit, but instead of his last meal, the life he had been holding inside would cascade out onto the rough carpet.
Everything had changed between these two boys.
The others caught none of this, oblivious to the sudden exchange, only aware of the superficial kiss traded between two mouths. They giggled, knowing that neither of those boys actually meant it. Only they were wrong. So wrong. Rosemary’s face was shaded by her lanky hair, and she purposely avoided what she had initiated. She was the reason for this spiking encounter, and she knew it. She had proven to herself that not only was she an hostile outsider, even a wallflower, but also a change-maker as well.
The moment passed, the boys averted their gazes, and Grant coughed abruptly.
Sadie shot up before he could speak, beating him to the attention of the room. She had always been this way, and had enraptured all, never missing a beat, but always playing them. She gave a knowing and strong smile to the room before she spoke.
“I’m going to the bathroom. You all have fun down here, and don’t miss me too much, alright?”
She was gone before they could reply, already halfway up the stairs. She slid on the smooth wood of the slippery hallway, almost crashing into the wall that opposed her. She knew where the bathroom was, she was sure of it, and she walked with purpose to the door.
“Oh honey -- toilet is broken in there. There’s another bathroom right upstairs, your first left,” Mrs. Ferrari called as she reached for the door handle. Sadie smiled brilliantly.
“Thanks, Mrs. Ferrari,” she skipped up the stairs, at the top in seconds.
Her favorite song pounded in loud beats from another doorway, a golden rectangle in the top hallway. Out of curiosity, she tipped the door open further, to find Dean’s older brother, a senior, inside. He was spinning around, shirtless.
Sadie stifled a chuckle.
At the moment he had spun right around, and caught sight of her.
“Sadie Fuller. You’re even more beautiful up close,”
Maybe it was the voice, maybe it was the no-shirt part, maybe it was the way he had started to approach her. She felt that something was wrong deep inside of her, but she did not run. She stood, something dark coiling right under the surface of her skin.
He lunged for her now, and she was silent, limp, so passive. She did not scream when he started to lick her neck. She did not scream when he hungrily reached under her shirt.
All she could manage was a weak “No.”
Floors below in the funny little basement, Scott had been asked if he was going to choose truth, or dare.
He hesitated, thoughtfully sorting over the risks, skillfully calculating what to do.
“Truth,” his voice wavered, but only Paige caught it.
By this time, Dean had cracked open the bottle of tequila, and him, Grant and Scott were passing it around between the three of them. Occasionally, Rosemary would grasp the glass and a take a sip or two, and this time, the boys didn’t argue.
Grant let a laugh bubble out, his movements slow and disconnected.
“I will ask you this, Scott O’Bergan! I will ask you...hm....the story of how you lost your virginity. Who it was, where it was, all the details, the whole shabam,” Grant finished, looking at Scott with piqued interest.
Scott grimaced, too far gone. Paige looked at him disapprovingly. She, of all people, had never taken a sip of alcohol. She hated it, hated what it did to people, but hated Scott most of all for it. God, if only he didn’t drink…
“Well, way back when I NEVER lost it. Nope, not even once. I haven’t even got laid once,” he looked from face to face, but the only audible reaction was Rosemary’s sarcastic smirk.
The rest of them were shocked what.
“You mean you’re a virgin? Scott O’Bergan is virgin?! Oh my god…” Dean was genuinely shocked. Even he had had sex last year, with that boring old girlfriend he had dated for over a year.
Grant was shocked too, but everyone in the room knew that Grant hadn’t even kissed a girl, so he was let off the hook. A shock wave had rippled through the ring of friends.
Paige smiled. There was still hope yet. She gingerly grasped the corner of Scott’s shoulder and leaned in next to him. Her soft, innocent lips brushed against his hot ear.
“I’m a virgin too,” she whispered.
Virginity is a delicate thing. Sadie knew this when she had graciously offered her body to Paul, her junior boyfriend during her freshman year. It was like nothing she had ever felt, the basic, steamy, backseat-of-your-car sex. Still, the love was there, and Sadie had no regrets. She had never known sex to be a violent thing. Until that night upstairs, trapped in the room with him, her favorite song mocking her in the back of her mind. Somewhere, sometime, she had read that it was easier on her physically to just let him take over.
She shrunk into herself, separating her physical self from her mental one. This isn’t happening, she told herself, over and over, until those were the only words in her head. Over and over until he had finished, groaning and sweaty, his body suffocating her. Over and over while he took her power away. Over and over as she watched the dark white bedsheets crinkle with each thrust. Over and over until she had forgotten who she was. This isn’t happening. She rose from the side of his bed. Her voice was long gone, but she found it within her to tell him.
“I told you no,”
He looked at her from down on the bedsheets. He laughed softly, as if this was some sort of joking matter.
She fled then, tripping down the stairs, flying past Mrs. Ferrari asleep on the couch.
She retreated into the basement, breathless, flustered, and weak.
Her confidence was gone.
No one seemed to notice, as they were all heavily intoxicated, except for Paige, who was too naive to notice the deep change that hung about her.
Sadie grabbed the bottle from Scott, fiercely scared.
She chugged it. The whole thing. The amber liquid was gone as her lips parted from the mouth of the bottle.
It was only until she was so drunk that her mind scattered off to other places, although always aware of what had happened earlier. The room swayed for all, of course not for Paige, and Sadie swayed with it.
Grant forgot too, about what had been ripped up from inside him.
Dean only just forgot about Grant, and everybody poked fun at Scott for still being a virgin.
Scott wished in that moment, for the first time in all his life, to be a girl. If only he could be accepted as the virgin he was without stripping his masculinity.
“Hey guys, look at this,” slurred Dean from the back.
Tequila bottle in hand, he swung, cracking the once rigid glass bottle into a million shards, dancing on the soft carpet below.
Dean bent down to the broken mess, and lifted a single shard into view.
Before anyone could do anything, he ran the shard along the inside of his wrist, tracing a line of blood into his skin.
Paige gasped, letting the air hiss out of her. She twisted the glass out of his hand, his blood wet on her hand. The others gaped, too shocked and betrayed to realize what had happened.
He had insisted on being absolutely fine ever since the day, the day where his life was ripped in half and now he was ripping himself inside out in front of the people who helped put him back together.
Really, the only thing holding him together was tape, and everybody knows tape peels off some time or another.
Paige could only stare down at the shard in her hand, a disgusted look on her face. She slowly looked up at Dean.
“How could you let the one thing that killed your Dad kill you?”
She turned and heads up the stairs. The silence she leaves behind is thick and heavy, coating the others in a stagnant soup of oppression.
It’s Scott who leaves next, stumbling after Paige.
Slowly, Rosemary follows, but she has proven she is not as much a follower as people think she might be.
Sadie knew that Rosemary was her ride, so she managed to grab her hand to steady herself as she almost landed face first on the hard wooden stairs.
Just Dean and Grant were in the basement after that, standing on opposite sides of the room. But Grant crossed the room, caressing the cut arm in his. He was always there to fix him, and Dean was always there to be fixed by him.
The confident girl had left with no confidence left.
The quiet freak had proved herself a force.
The gay boy had held onto a kiss one millisecond too long.
The broken boy had let him.
The virgin struggled against gender norms.
And one girl left completely unchanged.