Girls Raised by Wolves

bunny girl
Hadley:

Valerie Solomon is perfect.

Her makeup is flawless and over-the-top, and her hair is always completely amazing. It never looks like someone styled it with an eggbeater unless she means it to.

We’re in the west-hall bathroom, during the five-minute passing period between first and second, and she’s alone, which is weird because Valerie is insanely popular, and she is never, ever alone.

She stands at the mirror, painting on lipgloss, pursing her lips for her reflection. I don’t want to look, but I have to anyway.

Valerie is the girl all the other girls have a crush on. Not like a kissing crush—I mean, I guess some of them could have that too—but the kind of crush where everything a person does is irreproachable. The kind where you just want to be them.

So when she turns around and looks at me and says, “Hey are you going to that party at Clara Finn’s this weekend?” it’s like being acknowledged by the Pope or something. You don’t know if you should kneel, or bow or avert your eyes before some vengeful god strikes you down with lightning.

“It’s not really my scene,” I say which is a massive understatement and also implies that I have a scene.

She nods like she’s thinking hard about something. Then she holds out her hand. “Here, let me see you,” she says.

It’s in the narrow window before the late call, but after the second bell. If we don’t leave now, we’re going to miss roll, but I step closer and hold very still while she stares at me.

Valerie:

I don’t know much about her. Just that she’s on lacrosse, which is the toughest sport Saint Paul’s has for girls, and her arms are thick and kind of built. She’s always covered in bruises. Usually, that would be sort of gross, but on her, they look almost decorative, like some kind of exotic body paint. Like someone has been dotting on purple splotches with a paintbrush. Her joints look hard and sturdy. She could take a punch, no problem.

I’m nearly done to death. I know I’m not supposed to say that, because this is the prime of my life and I am blithe and youthful and privileged and blah, blah, blah, but no. I am overly done to death, and yeah, I really mean that.

The texture of my life is so dense, so all-consuming, that I stop being able to think about trig or symbolism or who won the war. It’s like this time in eight grade when Logan Baines told me he was going to kiss me and didn’t do it, and then it was just like this thing, hanging over me for weeks and I couldn’t relax or concentrate. I never knew when that kiss was going to come out of nowhere.

Now it’s exactly like that, except for ski trips and parties, and I get kissed every weekend, but the feeling of waiting never goes away, like I am scrambled to pieces in my own skin.

The waiting is always hanging over me and all I want is for the other shoe to drop.

Hadley:

Valerie sticks out her chin and rakes her hair back from her face, turning away from me. “You should come anyway,” she says to her reflection. “Or, at least not worry about people or scenes or whatever, because that’s just stupid.”

“Why?” I say. And I mean, why come to Clara’s party, but also, why does she care one way or the other.

“Because it’s better to just do what you want. Whatever you want. You should do what it takes to be tough,” she says, and her voice sounds tired and annoyed.

“How do you mean?” I ask, not knowing quite how to take this. “What do you mean by tough? I mean, are you tough?”

“I used to be, sort of. But that was back when I was young and dumb or however you are in eighth grade, and that’s stupid. I mean, it’s all Black Labels and Marlboro Reds and rebelling just to fit in.”

The shape of her mouth is bored. Over it, and I nod. A Marlboro Red is a cigarette. I have no idea what a Black Label is.

“Can I give you a makeover?” she says suddenly, talking fast, like I might say no. “Just a tiny one. A two-minute makeover.”

And I nod because I want her to, even though this is not how I would have pictured it. Makeovers are the kind of thing friends do, not complete strangers standing in the bathroom after the late bell.

She opens her makeup case and gets out a pale, iridescent liner. She draws a shimmery line around my eyes, then follows it up with a smear of glitter and candy-pink shadow. She does my eyelashes and my cheeks, rubbing in cream blush until I am very, very pink.

“There,” she says, stepping back. “Now you look like me.”

I don’t, but I do look different and kind of harmless. Even though I wear makeup sometimes, it never looks this soft when I put it on myself.

Valerie takes a deep breath, zipping her makeup case. “Here, stand right here and don’t move. I want to try something.”

So I stand with my arms at my sides, watching as she walks circles around me.

“Perfect,” she says under her breath, and her voice is shaking a little. “You really do look just like me.”

Her voice is so dark and ferocious that I flinch. I start to tell her no, that I’ll never be as pretty as her. I’ll never be Valerie, who is indeed perfect, even though her eyes are strangely red. Her mouth is working like she’s trying not to bite her lip.

“Are you okay?” I ask.

She shakes her head and swallows hard. I half-expect her to start crying.

Instead, she hauls back and punches me in the face.

Photo by Lutykuh, 3rd

41 thoughts on “Girls Raised by Wolves

  1. That’s got… a glorious kind of rebellion, and bright-colored makeup and bruises and the extension of self loathing… I like it. A lot. And not just because some of my most memorable high school experiences involve loitering in bathrooms.

  2. I love the description in this. Not just that, but this is all I’m going to say for the moment. *back away slowly into the mist*

  3. OMG Brenna, I want more. I hope they’ll be more (someday at least?).

    Nice switching of voices btw. I always worry when I meet character #2, or 3, and so on, but as soon as it was Valerie her voice was completely different to me.

  4. Wow.

    Just wow.

    Um, can’t think of a coherent response to this. Other than Wow, I am AMAZED at how you can paint such a clear path of emotions. Lovely job.

  5. WOW
    WOW
    WOW

    Can’t say much else…
    But it was amazing with the pink make up and Clara’s party and self hatred and (poor Hadley?) amazing picture too… ๐Ÿ™‚

  6. Brilliant, as usual. If this is what you do when you want to be working on a certain dreams book but can’t… maybe you should put it off more. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  7. That’s pretty cool. ‘like I am scrambled to pieces in my own skin.’ I love this. She’s a time bomb – tick, tick, ticking. One’s a sparrow, the other’s a vulture.

    Still, citizen sparrow, this vulture which you call
    Unnatural, let him but blunder again to air
    Over the rotten office, let him bear
    The carrion ballast up,and at the tall
    Tip of the sky lie cruising.

    Still, Citizen Sparrow – Richard Wilbur.

  8. That was great. I was wondering how you were going to wrap it up so quick, but you did it very neatly. Nice one.

  9. …okay, I get the self-loathing. Entirely.
    But I can’t see Hadley not smacking her one back. Lacrosse, right? Bruises? Used to pain, okay, but used to someone who never speaks to her hitting her?

    Very believably written. But I need five minutes with Ms. Perfect, thanks.

  10. All I can say is – WOW!!! Like a child craving candy, I want more. I could see this whole interaction taking place in my mind. Great writing.

  11. Oh very good! That ending just jumped out at you both expected and unexpected :).

  12. Oh, there is no doubt in my mind that two seconds from now, Hadley *destroys* her and it will be sad and glorious, but mostly just . . . inevitable. Self-destruction by lacrosse player, maybe?

  13. Oh, this is great! I really don’t know Wilbur, but this is so strangely appropriate.

  14. not just because some of my most memorable high school experiences involve loitering in bathrooms.

    Those are the absolute bestโ€”so completely cinematic.

  15. I had to decide if I wanted to stop at the moment before the inevitable happens (inevitable being Hadley decimating her), or carry through to the logical conclusion. So just imagine epic brawl in your head ๐Ÿ™‚

  16. Thanks! I’m in high-school-mode right now for sure, so all my ideas are very interaction-y ๐Ÿ™‚

  17. Thanks! (I love pink makeup, even though I can’t wear the *really* pink kind)

  18. Maybe not more of this story particularly, but my brain is being eaten by a very high-school idea right now and there’s definitely room for some more personal-identity/self-loathing angst ๐Ÿ˜€

  19. This is great! The voices were distinct, and I totally wasn’t expecting that ending at all.

  20. As always, amazing! I love Valerie’s self-description, “scrambled to pieces in my own skin,” because really, who hasn’t felt that way at some point in their lives? Love it!!

  21. So true. Plus, they’re the only place in the school without security cameras, which means a lot of graffiti and spur-of-the-moment dyeing of each other’s hair.

  22. because really, who hasn’t felt that way at some point in their lives?

    Totally! I always like digging around in those feelings that seem weirdly universal ๐Ÿ™‚

  23. This is fantastic. It’s that slow burn up to the explosion you expect will happen. and I talk about you lot often. It’s amazing to watch how you all just keep improving. We have mad love, which never includes face punching. LOL

  24. Oh come on, face-punching can be fun ๐Ÿ˜‰

    All I can say is, writing stories in bulk quantity really pushes you to get a handle on the things you don’t know. When we started, I had no idea what all I didn’t know. Now, I’m just trying beat it into submission!

  25. I know! I kept feeling that it was so wrong that I think this story is funny ๐Ÿ˜€

  26. This was darkly funny and kind of made me sad. Both of these girls represent what I wanted to be when I was young but I still flounder somewhere in between.
    If there is more of this somewhere I’d really love to read it.
    I’m still in awe of you btw โค

  27. I wind up writing a lot of fantasy/horror, but my secret-favorite stuff is always contemporary. I just erally like that minutia.

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