Chapter Two: Julianne
I didn’t feel different. Not smarter, not powerful, not beautiful, nothing like I thought I would one year closer to being an adult. I wasn’t a child anymore—despite what Kay said—I hadn’t been for a long time. Almost overnight I started growing…parts. I had never given much attention to these things, assuming that my boyish figure was just a permanent part of my whole undesirable package. But with each surprising cup upgrade, I started to notice people noticing me. I thought about all those years I had wasted before, how my jealousy towards Kay was now unprecedented. I could make a name for myself. I could be deviant. Promiscuous, maybe. I could be a criminal. A real one, not just a child who lets her emotions get the best of her. The possibilities were endless.
And, I discovered alcohol. Or, really, I became more acquainted with it. I had never liked the idea of alcohol, seeing how stupid it made people and how sloppy and regrettable Kay’s decisions tended to be while drinking. The once that Kay had thrown me a beer at one of our gatherings of drunks, the taste had made me gag and choke on the bubbles. After coughing myself into hysterics, I was promptly laughed out of my own apartment to wander the streets, my head hung in shame. But now, things were different. I was determined to break into the circle.
One night, a young guy I knew to be about my age came to invite Kay to a party. Usually she didn’t comply but that night she was acting especially flighty and said yes, taking his hand and puckering her lips in what can only be described as over-the-top seduction.
I rolled my eyes and watched them go, about to retreat to my room, when the boy—Kevin—burst through the door again and smiled at my chest.
“You coming?” he asked my boobs.
It took me a minute to determine if he was joking, but when his eyes finally left my chest and focused on my face, I could see that he meant it. Faster than I’ve moved in my entire life, I threw on one of Kay’s party dresses and rushed down the stairs with Kevin—joining the group of five or six already there—for the first booze-fest of my teenage career.
The walk to the party was awkward, Kay monopolizing the others and me hanging back, calculating the distance I’d have to run if I decided to book it back to the safety of our apartment. But once there, with a warm cup of sweet liquid in my hand, the night was mine. From what I remembered the next morning, my head pounding and my heart aching from the excitement, Kevin’s lips had tasted just as sweet as my new friend “the drink”. From then on, I longed to recreate that feeling. To feel free and out of control and incredible. I wanted to drown myself in it.
About a month after my seventeenth birthday I met Julianne. She was nineteen, gorgeous, and a high-class rebel. Her hair was long and black and the ease with which she swept it back from her face, a soft pout on her lips, made me long for her and to be her. She wore jeans with purposeful rips in them, black rings encircling her brilliant green eyes. I worshiped her immediately.
I had been walking back from the Salvation Army wearing my new prized possession—a seventy-five-cent gold-collared jean jacket—when I caught her looking at me from across the street.
“Hey, you!” she called, and skipped over to me. She complimented my jacket, but scolded my hair, pulling out the ponytail and messing it up with her hands.
She made me pose for her, saying, “Girl, you are fuh-ine,” and “Fuck me, gorgeous!”
And from that point on I was madly in love.
After hanging out with Julianne a few times around the park, I thought I finally earned the right to have her at my apartment, to introduce her to my small world. I didn’t care what Kay would think. Julianne, on the outside, looked dangerous, and she was dangerous. She was bat-shit crazy. But she was also the sweetest, perkiest person I had ever met and there was no way Kay could escape her charm. I knew it.
So, after sweet talking Kay into a confused corner, I brought Julianne to my closet size room with my makeshift bed, proud to show her my few prized possessions, to which she nodded at politely. I had never had many friends, and having someone as beatific as Julianne, not only in my life, but in my room was…overwhelming.
Abruptly, she stopped me and told me to sit down on the bed, lighting a joint and pouting her lips seductively, passing it off to me.
“Your mom’s cool, right?”
“I mean, she’s the Special K, right?”
I nodded again, staring at the joint in my hand.
“Sweet. You don’t even have to leave to get a hit.”
I shrugged as nonchalantly as I could. “Yeah, it’s cool.”
She smiled down at me. “I like you, Isa.”
“You too, Julianne.” I took confidence from the encouragement in her eyes and sucked on the papery stick. I coughed and coughed until my lungs burned.
She smiled at me and jumped onto the bed. I handed her the joint.
We talked for a while, lying on my bed, getting high. I listened with profound interest as she talked about her life. Her mom had left her when she was young with her “bastard of a father” and her older brother, Sam. Sam didn’t stay for long, leaving for what he claimed was “college” and hadn’t been back since. She had just moved in with her boyfriend, who lived in my neighborhood. It was obvious she was madly in love with him the way she puckered her lips and coyly tucked her hair behind her ear when she mentioned him.
I also talked about my life, trying my best to make my stories interesting. She was especially interested in Dane.
“I like this guy,” she mused, her boots planted on the wall above my bed.
“I hate him,” I said, not even convincing myself.
“Honey, he was only doing what he thought was the right thing. I mean, do you expect him to stay where a child has confessed their love for him?”
“I did not! And he said it wasn’t because of me…”
She shrugged. “Okay.”
I put my head in her lap, thinking. After a minute I said, “Julie, I think I’m in love with you.”
She smiled slightly. “Get in line, babe.” She gave me a kiss on the cheek. “Love you, too, Isa. But don’t call me Julie.”
I grinned as she got up and walked out the door.
One night I was sitting in the lobby of our apartment building, reading, when the front door
swung open and in walked Julianne, wearing black knee high boots and a skirt so short it took
me a moment to realize it was an actual article of clothing.
She kissed my cheek and sat on the step beside me. “Whatcha reading?”
I reluctantly showed her the cheesy cover of “Passion in the Wind”. I had moved on from revenge stories.
She smirked and took it from me. “Wanna go out?”
“Where are we going?” I asked skeptically.
She left the book on the stairs and dragged me to the door, pulling at my shirt and pushing up my newly developed cleavage. “There’s some people I want you to meet.”
There was a hangout in my neighborhood called The Creek. Except it wasn’t really a creek, more like a wide ditch with a footbridge across it. It had been condemned years ago because a toxic substance was found in the water. Nothing was done about it, though, and now it was left to be vandalized by the youth of my community.
So, when Julianne mentioned it as our destination, I was excited, but also a little skeptical. I’d heard about the things that went on there. Sex and drugs and a boy possibly even died there once.
When we finally reached The Creek, she took my hand and pulled me to a circle of log and rock chairs, occupied by little puffs of white smoke where faces should be. A warm fire blazed in the centre. Julianne introduced me and I waved awkwardly at the smoke clouds. She was especially adamant about one guy in particular, Ty, who she introduced to me several times, pushing me into the spot next to him. He had messy hair that drooped over his eyes and smelled of cheap cologne.
“Hi,” I muttered nervously, biting my lip. I ignored him for the majority of the night, unsure of how to respond to his many attempts at conversation and the hand lingering on my knee.
I liked watching Julianne, as she wrapped herself around who I assumed was her boyfriend, Mike. She had a magnetism about her that had captured the attention of the group. They watched her every movement. Most of the group was guys, but still. It made me want to be her.
I looked over to her again and realized she was scowling at me. She motioned for me to come to her and I mumbled an “excuse me” to Ty, meeting her at the edge of the chair circle.
“What the hell are you doing?” she whispered.
“What?” I stared at her, not comprehending.
“You’re completely ignoring Ty.”
“Uh…” She waited for me to explain. “I don’t know what to do…” I finally admitted.
She seemed to think I was joking and smirked. “Isa, stop playing hard to get, it’s really not that efficient.” She pushed me back towards Ty and I stumbled into the seat beside him.
She walked over to Mike, looking at me pointedly, and proceeded to sloppily make out with him, straddling his lap.
I made an awkward noise and smiled up at Ty. I desperately wanted to be a part of Julianne’s world, so I decided this was just something that I had to do.
“You okay?” he asked. His voice sounded vaguely disinterested and my stomach tightened in panic. The idea of promiscuity had intrigued me, hadn’t it? I couldn’t fuck up my chance.
I smiled bigger and moved closer to him. “Fine, Ty. Hey, sorry about earlier, you just…really intimidate me.” It was partly true but also turned out to be the right thing to say, as he snapped back to attention and angled his body towards me, his hand landing on my knee once again.
“Why’s that?” He smirked and moved his eyes in a way that brought the word “smolder” to mind.
I looked at him carefully, the flicker of the flames casting dark shadows over his face, disguising his features. “I’ll tell you later.” I winked and wondered if he could possibly be buying into it. The way his grip tightened on my knee confirmed that he was.
We continued to exchange flirtatious mumblings until finally he said, “Do you wanna come for a walk with me?”
I hesitated but nodded and he took my hand, leading me down a path in the opposite direction of the group. Out of the corner of my eye I saw Julianne clap her hands gleefully at me.
There were several other groups of people wandering around us, sneaking off into the woods. A guy with no clothes but shoes on hung drunkenly in a tree.
I thought about how Ty’s hand felt as we walked; too warm and sticky, uncomfortable. He was decent looking, and at least a few years older than me. I caught him looking at me and my face burned with embarrassment.
We walked into a clearing and sat down on the bank of the water. He put his arm around my shoulder.
After a few minutes, he said, “Nice night, huh?”
I felt like he was begging me to read between the lines. “Sure,” I muttered.
“So, Isabelle.” He handed me his drink and I took a long swig.
“Julianne told me about you. You’re sexier than I thought you’d be.” His hand moved up and down my leg and I shivered. “Are you cold?”
I stayed quiet while he pushed me down onto my back and started kissing my neck. It felt strange, but nice.
“You wanna warm me up, baby?” He was breathing heavily.
I felt squirmy but tried my hardest to get into it. “Okay,” I whispered, unsure of what to do with my hands. I decided to put them on his face as his kisses became rougher, and his hands went up my skirt, his fingers slipping inside me. I gasped and squirmed at the new sensation. And for some reason, I wanted nothing more in that moment than for Dane to appear and take me away with him, forever.
The night ended and the morning began, the sun painting itself across the sky when the party finally drew to a close. We all stumbled drunkenly down the empty streets, dispersing in twos and threes at random intervals until it was just Julianne and Mike and me and Ty.
Ty pointed across the street and whispered in my ear, asking if I wanted to go to his place. The razor burn on my face from his stubble throbbed and I quickly shook my head no. He shrugged and leaned down close to my face for a kiss, but tripped and ended up head-butting me instead. I pushed him back in shock and told him to go home, with a vague promise to see him later. He smiled at me and left, whistling as he went.
I groaned and sat down against the brick wall of an apartment building, holding my head. Over the ringing in my ears, I heard Julianne giggle. “God, you guys are so perfect together.”
I turned my head to the side and vomited. How many drinks had I had?
“You’re such a spaz.” She lifted my chin and wiped my mouth with her scarf. Mike whined, begging Julianne to leave me and go home with him.
She glared at him and kissed my forehead. “Let’s take her home first.”
I really had no idea where I was when I woke up. There was wood above me, and I started to panic, thinking I was buried alive, when I realized it was a table and I was at home.
I sat up and smacked my head, the pain emanating throughout my entire body. I cried out for help, but the only response was my stomach growling violently back at me.
I crawled out from under the table and to the bathroom, putting my head against the cool edge of the bathtub.
“I hate you,” I whispered, “you fucking idiot.”
I pulled myself up to look in the mirror and saw the note taped to my cheek:
No one violated you. You’re just drunk. Sleep today, party again tomorrow.
I crumpled it up and drowned it in the sink.
I caught a glimpse of Kay’s reflection in the mirror and screamed, covering my ears at the shrillness of my own voice. I groaned and sank to the floor.
Kay kicked my foot gently. “Good night?”
I closed my eyes, trying to remember the events of the previous night. Ty’s face flashed before my eyes and I groaned, my head vibrating. “Can you just leave me alone?”
“Come on,” Kay whispered, trying to pull me to my feet. I didn’t budge and she sighed.
“Go away,” I croaked. I closed my eyes. “Leave me to die.”
“So dramatic,” I heard her mumble, and my breath caught in my throat as I was dragged by my feet down the hall. She giggled.
My head bounced off the hard floor and my brain exploded inside my skull. For sure I had a concussion by now.
“What the FUCK!” I screamed.
My legs smacked back down to earth and I was lifted onto something soft. A bed. Heaven.
“Just shut your mouth and stay here, I’ll get you some pills.”
I spent most of the day in the fetal position. When I woke up again the house was dark and quiet. I looked at my bedside clock; I had slept for an entire day. It was early morning again.
I stumbled to the kitchen in desperate need of water, my mouth drier than the Sahara. I stuck my head under the tap and drank until my stomach hurt.
My mind felt oddly alert and I decided I needed to get out of the house. I grabbed my jacket and shoes as quietly as I could and slipped out the door before Kay could notice I was gone.
The cold air hit me hard, a pleasantly painful sensation. I sucked it in, taking off down the street. I felt very…alive. Revived. A mix of nerves and elation came over me as I realized the milestone I had accomplished the previous night. And then I heard someone call my name.
I spun around, trying to find the source on the dimly lit street. Someone was there, a few meters away, waving. We walked towards each other and I felt a moment of joy followed by drastic disappointment as I realized who it was. Ty. Why the hell was he here, and did he know that I was just thinking about him?
“Hey, babe,” he cooed, draping an arm around my shoulder, a cigarette dangling between his lips.
I frowned at the pet name. He didn’t pick up on the displeasure on my face. “Ty. What are you doing here? At the exact moment I am.”
“Right? Such a beautiful coincidence. I was just thinking about you.”
I didn’t reciprocate the sentiment, afraid it would give him the wrong idea. There was something about Ty that made me shiver with both desire and disgust. “Why?”
“Can’t help it.”
That made me warm. No matter what I thought of him, his attention made me feel weak. He led me to a bench that sat across from the park.
“How old are you?” he asked as we sat down.
“Why does it matter?”
He kissed me suddenly. “Just want to know if I broke any laws...” he breathed.
I was flustered. Did I like Ty? Not really. I didn’t feel what Julianne called “the connection”. Was I supposed to, after last night? I could learn to like him.
“You wanna know a secret?” he asked, leaning back against the bench.
He didn’t speak. I watched him in the dark for a minute to see if he had fallen asleep. He turned his head sharply, making me jump.
“We’ve met before, you know.”
I frowned. “Uh, yeah, Ty. Yesterday. I know.”
He smirked. “No, before. But you don’t remember, obviously. I knew who you were by the way Julianne described you so I asked her to bring you last night. I wanted to see you again.” His hand found its way to my leg.
He laughed, tracing circles on my knee. “You were on the street by my building talking to that perv Paulie. You looked like you were going to kick his ass. You were just so fiery and cute. So, I threw something at him from my window and it hit him in the head, and while he was ripping me a new asshole you slipped away. I distinctly remember you smiling at me too.”
I thought back. “That was you?”
Ty sighed. “So. Totally. Fate.”
I snorted. “That’s not fate.”
“Sure, it is.”
Was he right? I couldn’t believe that my fate was wasted on him. “Whatever man, I gotta go, see ya ’round.” I got up from the bench, Ty smacking my ass, and walked back the way I’d come, a sense of unease and wonder looming over me.
I hadn’t left the apartment in days in an attempt to avoid Ty. The appearance of a young gentlemen caller at the front door for Kay forced me to reconsider my hibernation and I slipped outside before they could close her bedroom door.
The sun was unpleasantly bright. I limped dramatically down the street, hoping people would think I was just another decrepit and leave me alone.
I heard my name and looked up, shielding my eyes from the sun to a glorious sight, dressed completely in black except for a fiery new red hairdo.
I screamed and ran towards her, scaring a few pigeons. “Julianne!” She smiled and opened her arms for me.
“Where have you been?” she asked as I tackled her in a hug. “I tried calling you,” she mumbled into my neck.
We walked hand in hand small talking, the air thick with us both having something to say but not knowing how. We rounded the corner to an old apartment building and bumped into a man who looked exactly like Julianne except scruffy and extremely tall. He introduced himself as her brother, Sam. He waved us up the stairs ahead of him with a flirtatious wink directed at me. I bit my lip in embarrassment and raised my eyebrows at Julianne. Since when did she live with her brother?
Once inside, Julianne and I headed to her room with a bag of stale Doritos and a joint from the stash on the microwave. As soon as the door shut she sighed. “I broke up with Mike.”
“What? What happened?”
“He threatened to punch the fetus out of me, Isa!”
I spat out the carboard Dorito I had been chewing. “What the fuck are you talking about?”
She explained about the pregnancy scare. “You’ve been MIA the last few days…”
I tried to apologize but she shushed me. “Whatever,” she said, waving a hand dismissively. “He’s a child. I need a man.”
I decided not to mention Ty. He didn’t seem worthy of the conversation.
She groaned. “Just give me a Dane.”
I sighed. I had tried to forget about him. We talked more about love and sex and ridiculous expectations until there was a lull and we found ourselves gazing at each other in a strange way. Unexpectedly, I kissed her full on the lips. Without hesitation, she kissed me back. In that moment, it felt right. Her soft lips soothed me until we drifted off into a hazy sleep.
I awoke in the middle of the night and smiled at Julianne’s warm body beside me. As quietly as I could I slipped out of the room and padded softly into the kitchen in search of sustenance. I was bent over, half my body in the fridge when I heard someone behind me. I started and leaned into the fridge door, the fridge falling towards me. A giant hand pushed it back up and pulled me away.
“What are you doing?” A light flicked on. It was Sam.
“Oh, hi. Sorry, I was just looking for…” I trailed off when I realized Sam was eyeing up and down. “Uh…”
Sam smiled. I liked the way he looked at me.
I stared at him. “Uh…”
“What was your name again?”
He came over to me and put his arm around my shoulder in an ambiguously platonic way, his fingertips brushing just below my collarbone. He didn’t say anything.
“Uh,” I stammered again, at a loss.
“Well, have a good night, Isa.” He kissed my forehead and walked away, leaving me alone in the dark.