“The word pressure is a useless one.”
“Instead of pressure, I substitute challenge.”
“The pressure of exams is a challenge to do well.”
“The pressure of eating healthy is a challenge to lose double the weight in half the time.”
“The pressure of looking good, being successful and all that other stuff is a challenge to prove every last one of those fuckers who look down on us wrong.”
The question is will you accept the challenge?
Do you want to be one of the beautiful Devils?
Do you want to whirl and sway with us, delicious sinners?
We’re tough, we’re beautiful and we definitely aren’t saints
However, that’s how everyone knew us. Elva Marie and her saints, the perfect image of femininity and sex appeal. Everything guys wanted in a girl.
We were the type of girls who wouldn’t hesitate to steal your boyfriends and laugh while doing it. We were the kind of girls that invited jealousy and hatred and ate it up as if it were praise. Each harsh barb a measure of our self-worth. We were perfect, and we were a challenge.
But if I’m going to tell this story right you should know that we were all a little cracked around the edges. Even me.
We spent hours in the mirrors each day carefully slapping cover up onto these unholy cracks, the tell-tale signs of our insecurities and flaws...softly grinding it into our skin until the cracks could no longer be seen from far away - hiding them under red-lipped smiles and glossy hairstyles - we did this until no one, not even us, could truly tell how broken we were.
Our second to last year at school was when we began to really break, each of us crumbling in our own way. We crumbled into ourselves, into each other and now no trace is left.
There’s just me.
It was in early September that Elva -who was I guess what you would call our leader- strutted into our little alcove in the games room with Rochelle in tow -We’d claimed it because it offered privacy and was the only one with windows- Fox and I were doing our best to soak up the remaining scraps of the English summer sun before autumn settled in and school officially started, not that it did much for Fox whose auburn hair and pale complexion left her practically incapable of getting a tan, but when Elva’s shadow covered our faces we immediately turned our attention to her.
Elva was the type of person who commanded attention and she got it wherever she went. But today I barely registered her before my attention was pulled to a small girl stood behind her. I took in her untamed curls that practically floated around her head and her skin which reminded me of my coffee when I put too much milk in.
Elva followed my gaze and gripped the girl by the forearm, dragging her into view, and announcing with a flourish “this is Rochelle, and she’s going to be hanging out with us from now on.” What struck me now that I could see her properly was how plain she was. I guess her face could’ve been pretty if she put some makeup on once in a while and conditioned, maybe brushed her hair too. I decided her figure could be nice too; if she lost a little weight.
These thoughts took such a heavy control of my mind I almost missed the glint of mischief in Elva’s blue eyes.
This made me semi-suspicious of what Elva was planning. As Rochelle lifted a shy hand in greeting. I offered only a nod in acknowledgment as at the time I didn’t deem her worthy of a verbal response, something that fills me with shame now. Because I was arguably the closest to Elva, Fox followed my lead and also nodded in her direction, but unlike me, she also offered up a quietly confident “hey.”
Out of all of us Rochelle was the weak link. A plaything we could get to do anything we wanted. Rochelle was just happy to be a part of the group and was more than willing to do Elva’s bidding. Which made it even easier.
I think I felt sorry for her that first time I met her because, she was too stupid to see she was being used and I pitied the way she never stood up for herself. But my pitying her only made me hate myself for feeling like that towards someone I didn’t even know let alone gave a shit about.
On that first day however, after the initial awkwardness, I lowered my shades onto my face and reclined on the large cushioned window pane that I’d claimed. I heard the scraping of chair legs as Fox maneuvered the nearby armchairs into our little space, so Elva and Rochelle could sit down, I felt Fox lift my legs so she could join me on the window sill and then lower them back down onto her lap. “Hey when is Tandy rocking up?” She asked.
I sighed pulling my phone out to remember exactly what she said in her message to me “she says her flight got delayed, some bullshit storm cropped up, probably won’t get in ’til tomorrow,”
“That American bitch better have remembered my perfume,” Elva said under her breath.
“I think she values her eyebrows enough to not forget!” Fox giggled. After that conversation seemed to flow I listened as Elva talked about boys she’d met over break foreign and home-grown alike, Fox talked about her successful solo shopping trips in Dubai skilfully avoiding the fact her mum was supposed to go with her, Rochelle occasionally piped in with talk of book clubs and her competition success which we largely ignored but feigned an interest in when she expected a response.
Then halfway through Fox’s umpteenth retelling of the time she met her idol, Jessica Spence, I cut her off by sighing out “the word success is a useless one,”
There was a pause before Fox, after swallowing her irritation at me added “instead of success I substitute...” She paused thinking a moment “betrayal”
I peered at Elva from above my sunglasses, she had one side of her mouth quirked up into an imitation smirk and was running her right thumb along the line of her lower lip. Also thinking.
“success in a competition is the betrayal of your friend whose idea you stole,” Fox and I nodded in satisfaction, I remember Rochelle just looked confused.
I thought for a moment adding “success in a relationship is the betrayal of how ignorant you are to think your partner is perfect,”
“That’s awfully perceptive Delilah,” Elva said snorting
I shrugged “what can I say perceptive is my name,” Fox and Elva giggled, even Rochelle managed a small chuckle which died almost instantly when I turned my head to look at her. “Well, are you just going to sit there?”
Her eyes widened “um-uh-wh-what?”
“Make a substitution!” I told her
“Oh, um success itself...” I leaned microscopically forward, urging her to continue “is a betrayal of your morals?”
I chose that moment to lie flat out on my back, a hint of a satisfied smile emerging on my lips. “I think you and me are going to get on just fine,”
“I’m bored, when’s food?” Elva announced to our little circle. I rolled my eyes.
“How the bloody hell am I supposed to know?”
“Uh, because you always know these things?”
“Yes, always, for fuck’s sake you probably have your timetable memorised by now, all your pre-school work completed in earnest!”
I gave a snort of derision “your casual racism aside I...”
“I wasn’t being racist,” Elva said, indignation colouring her cheeks, she didn’t like to be humiliated especially in front of people like Rochelle who she was trying to dazzle; and I guess that was what I was aiming for which is probably why I said what I said next.
“Oh forgive me, you were stereotyping, because that’s not racist!”
Elva narrowed her eyes “whatever” she huffed, slumping back into her seat.
I left it a moment before forcing out some laughter. In between gasps I managed to get out “You’re too easy,”
I mean, as much as I got off on getting Elva riled if she thought it was anything other than good-natured teasing, my social life would be on the chopping block.
Maybe I was shallow to think that but things were different, I was different. In my formative years I preferred being surrounded by people. Those intrusive thoughts couldn’t monopolise my time and the heavy demands of my busy life meant I would never lock myself in my room for days on end. when I did that it leads to questions, and I hated questions.
Elva eventually relaxed fuelling the fiction to keep up appearances. it’s what we did, I pretended I wasn’t actually insulting her and she pretended she was actually my friend.
“Seriously not cool D,”
I shrugged “Sorry Elva, couldn’t resist.”