Porcelain Skin

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Emma-Nator

I’m still in a memory daze, staring at a patch of carpet with a suspicious stain on it when suddenly I’m being shoved in the back. I land with a thud directly on the soft, discolored flooring. I roll over, glaring at the perpetrator.

“What was that for?”

Lindsey only shrugs in response, while holding back an annoying grin. She’s sitting innocently on my bed where she’s just shoved me to the floor. I hoist myself up onto my knees and then groan my way into a standing position. You’d think I was some arthritically crippled eighty-year-old with the noises rumbling from my throat. I’d gone for an extra long run this morning and it had played a huge toll on my delicate bones.

“So, we were discussing the plan before your mind took a hike to Mars,” Lindsey says while plucking her brows using a small compact mirror.

I’m wondering if I should be grossed out by the fact that all those stray eyebrow hairs are finding a home in my blankets, but I can’t be bothered to say anything. Besides, I’ve already slept in dirt two nights in a row; I don’t think eyebrows will hurt me.

“Right,” I say, shaking some energy into my limbs. Lindsey shoots me a worried look, and I realize I probably look like I’m having a seizure. I pull myself together and try to focus. “Uh, okay, so plastic wrap has been used, hair in food has been used, air horn—used, dirt in sheets—used. What else is there?” I sigh dramatically. I’m way too tired for this.

“Really?” Lindsey lifts her brows in disapproving shock. “That’s the best you guys have done?” She returns to her brows. “Have you tried the internet? They’ve got tons of ideas.”

“Okay.” I turn towards my desk and pluck my computer from the surface before launching myself onto my bed. I nearly take out Lindsey’s head in the process. Flipping open my laptop, I instantly begin my search. There are a couple minutes of silence as I hunt for the world’s most fantastic prank, and then I feel Lindsey eyeing me.

“Are you ever going to tell me what happened between you and Trevor?” She’s giving me her puppy-dog face, and let me tell you, her puppy-dog face blows. Like, it literally makes me want to slap her. I turn my lip up at her in disgust, laughing at her failed attempt. She huffs before getting to work on her brows again. We return to silence for a moment as I contemplate how to tell her.

“He surprised me,” I begin, and immediately snag her attention.

She sits up and crosses her legs while watching me eagerly.

“I always thought he was so innocent and inexperienced with life, ya know?” I don’t give her a chance to respond before I continue. “He was always friendly and outgoing. I never saw him say an unkind word to anyone. He treated everyone equally as if the outward appearance didn’t even faze him. I remember being in awe that he could overlook what no one else could.” I run a finger over my bottom lip and relax my back against the wall.

“I always admired the guy he was in high school,” I say, “but at the same time, I always thought that he was that way just because his life was perfect. There was no baggage pulling him down.” I scratch my left eyelid. I get fidgety when I have to express emotions. “I was wrong. He’s got his hidden pain. He just chose to deal with it better than I did.” I pause for a moment, quiet settling over us.

“What happened?” she asks quietly.

I glance at her, debating over whether or not I should reveal it to her, and decide it wouldn’t hurt. “His best friend died.”

I see the surprise clear on Lindsey’s face, and I’m wondering if I should have kept my mouth shut. I decide that’s all I’m willing to say. If Trevor wanted people to know about his past he wouldn’t have hidden it from everyone. I’m wondering if Chuck even knows if Lindsey didn’t. As siblings, I’d think they would have shared a conversation or two about something like this.

How was he able to overcome something like that? I’ve only known Lindsey for a few months, but I don’t know how I’d get over it if something happened to her. Life would lose its color; fun would lose its appeal; people would lose their influence. A shiver runs down my spine with just the thought of having to go through something like that again. I’m not sure if I’d make it through. I survived as a zombie for nearly a year after my dad died, and then it took nearly a year to resuscitate my life after that.

It was the most painful experience imaginable.

Death is ugliest for those who are left behind to clean it up. It’s like food coloring; just a single drop can taint your entire existence. I may be able to find the joy in life now, but my blood still flows with memories of the horrors he caused. Images that can never be erased.

“Do you love him?” The question makes my breath hitch for a moment as my gaze flashes to Lindsey.

“What?” I’m too shocked by the abrupt question to make my thoughts move. Do I love him? I’m drawing a blank.

Lindsey just smiles knowingly back at me, but as soon as the question finally registers, I’m able to snap myself back into reality.

“No,” I mutter. “No. I don’t think so.”

“Really?” Lindsey has her head cocked to the side, unsure whether to believe me or not. Maybe she thinks I’m in denial. Maybe I am. I don’t know. I feel so confused when dealing with Trevor and my emotions.

“I’m not sure,” I finally admit. “I know that I used to think that I loved him back in high school, but I’ve now realized that that was more infatuation. I admired who he was... plus he was hot. So to the high schooler’s mind, you add admiration and attraction and you get love, right?” I laugh twice, but there’s very little humor in it.

“I definitely respect him,” I say while stretching my legs out in front of me. “He’s uniquely beautiful inside and out, which is a bonus. I guess I’m just confused because these last few months, the more I get to know him the more I realize that I don’t know him. You know what I mean?” She doesn’t get a chance to respond because I’m on a roll as words pour out my mouth. “He’s so much deeper than I ever imagined. He’s so compassionate. He actually cares about me... me! Even after everything I put Trinity through, he still cares about me. Why. The. Heck. Does. He. Care?” I’m strangely frustrated because it just doesn’t make sense for someone to be so compassionate and forgiving.

I look up from my rant when I hear Lindsey chuckle. She’s got her legs crossed with one elbow resting on her thigh and her chin laying in her palm.

“You know what that sounds like to me?” I don’t respond because I know she’s going to tell me anyway. “Sounds to me like you love him. You just don’t know it yet.”

“Ha!” I belt obnoxiously. “As if. How could I possibly love him? I barely know him; I only thought I did. Now I’m getting to know the Trevor that lies under the surface...,” I trail off momentarily, “and gosh, he’s beautiful... Lindsey!” I suddenly yell, making her jump. Her eyes are wide. “What if I love him?” I dig my fingers into my eyelids and rub them in circles as I try to push away the realization. “What am I going to do? I can’t love him!”

“Why?” She’s smiling widely.

“Because it would never work. We can’t be together. He could never love the person who destroyed his little sister.” I sound panicked. I’ve got my fingers in my hair now as I twirl strands together.

“And why not?” Her motherly side is coming out now. “If he can bring himself to accept you as a friend, what would stop him from accepting your heart and giving you his in return?”

I snort at her lame attempt at being romantic. She doesn’t look amused.

“I mean it,” she says. “Give the guy some credit. He’s able to see more good in you than you can. He forgave you just weeks after seeing you. That says something.”

“Yeah, but I’ve been over my emo, angry, hate-the-world stage for over a year and a half, almost two years, and he just forgave me a couple months ago.”

“And how was he supposed to know that you changed that long ago, huh?” Lindsey is leaning forward towards me now as she gets more passionate about what she’s trying to convey. “He graduated a year before us, so he never even saw the change in you until now, and he literally forgave you without any proof that you were different.”

“Listen, maybe he—”

“No,” she interrupts. “You listen. Trinity left about halfway through our junior year. You didn’t start cleaning up your act until, what, a couple months later? And even then, it was a bit sketchy. In my opinion, people didn’t really accept your transformation until nearly halfway through senior year. That’s a long time. And Trevor was long gone by then. There was no way for him to have known that you were different when he saw you that first day of class.”

“Yeah, and he hated me then,” I grumble, unwilling to accept what she’s saying.

“Duh! Why wouldn’t he?” Lindsey groans with exasperation. “To him, you were still the reason for his sister’s pain.”

“Then why did he bother forgiving me at all, especially so quickly?” I throw back, hoping that she’ll have all the answers, but unfortunately she doesn’t.

She looks at me with pity and shrugs. “That’s something you’ll have to ask him because I don’t know.” There’s silence for a moment before Lindsey speaks up again. “I am a bit confused, though. I mean, wasn’t the whole idea of ‘the plan’ to get him to fall in love with you? And now you’re saying that you guys can’t be together. What is it that you want?”

“Yeah,” I rub at my temples, trying to push the mild headache away. “It was an immature plan because it did start off that way. I was hoping my past would be forgotten and he’d suddenly only see out of eyes filled with love.” I laugh humorlessly. “Now that I know him, though, I’m not sure that I’m willing to risk losing his friendship just to satisfy my own desires to be with him, ya know?”

“I guess.” She shrugs, but she’s wearing an oddly devious smirk. “Personally, I think that boy feels a bit more for you than friendship.”

“What?” I’m shocked that she could possibly think this. “Why on planet earth would you think that?”

She turns back to perfecting her eyebrows before answering. “Well, Chuck’s my brother, and we talk sometimes.” She peeks at me over her shoulder before continuing. “And guess who else talks sometimes—best friends. Just so happens that Chuck is your fantasy boy’s best bud.” She wiggles her shapely brows at me with a giggle.

“What did he say?” I ask cautiously.

“Huh-uh,” she mumbles, shaking her head while pretending to zip her lips shut. “I’m not allowed to tell.”

“Really? That’s bogus. You can’t just say something like that and then not tell me the rest!” I’m nearly hysterical with curiosity.

“Let’s just say... don’t give up on that little plan of yours, because it might work out better than you thought.”


We had chosen our strategy of attack and now was our chance to put it into action. It’s Tuesday morning, and though I have no class I know that Mercy does. That gives us approximately one hour to complete our trap before the opportunity slips out of our fingers. Lindsey and I had researched how to hoist a bucket above a door and connect it to the doorknob perfectly so that as soon as Mercy steps through the entrance, it will douse her.

Now, this may seem like the typical ‘dump a bucket of water on your friend’ prank, but we added a bit of a twist. Honestly, Lindsey and I had searched our hearts out and hadn’t found anything online that really appealed to us, so we decided to just stick with the classic. The twist, though: we placed the bucket on the outside of the door so that it wouldn’t do its damage until she was already dressed and leaving the dorm for class. Secondly, it wasn’t filled with water. This is where Trevor’s prank with his buddies had sparked an idea.

I turned around to watch Lindsey tie the string around the doorknob while I emptied the last of the oil into the bucket. With the help of some of Lindsey’s brilliant people-connections, we were able to borrow two step ladders and a plank of wood. The contraption we had designed was extremely obvious, but hopefully, by the time Mercy noticed, it would be too late.

“Alright. You ready?” Lindsey says after eyeing her handiwork. I nod as I step away from the bucket so that she can tie the other end of the string to it. “Okay, help me lift it.”

I quickly step forward to grab the other side of the bucket. There’s a ladder on either side of the doorway, and a plank of wood resting on the top like a shelf. We’ve placed a box under the plank so that we can get high enough to set the bucket on the ledge. It’s a bit of a struggle since the position is awkward.

Once in place, Lindsey jumps down from the box and tests out the doorknob. She twists it carefully and then pushes the door open just a crack. We both chuckle evilly as we watch the string grow taut. There’s no way that this could fail.

I check the time and realize that we’ve spent nearly forty-five minutes getting it all set up. I motion to my phone to indicate to Lindsey that time is almost up. We tiptoe our way to the end of the hall with the box we used as a stepping stool in hand. I’m not sure why we feel the need to keep quiet. It’s not like it would give the prank away if Mercy heard people talking in the ‘public’ hallway. Somehow it just adds to the excitement, though. Lindsey and I crouch down to peer around the corner. There’s no way we’re gonna miss this.

The minutes tick by, and she’s already five minutes late for class. I’m starting to think that she’s planning to skip when suddenly the knob twists and the door slides open. It’s epic. Like everything occurs in slow motion as we watch the bucket tip gradually. The look on her face is priceless as it dawns on her that something isn’t right. She peeks up and her mouth drops open when she realizes what is about to happen, but it’s already too late. The contents of the bucket have already begun to spill over the side, and there’s not enough time for her to clear out of dodge.

The thick liquid makes contact with her perfectly styled hair and quickly oozes down her shocked face. She shuts her gaping mouth just in time to avoid a mouthful of oil. She stands completely still as she allows the slippery substance to creep down her face, into her clothes, and down her legs where it seeps into the old, faded mat we’d placed on the floor to catch the overflow. Lindsey and I are biting our fists to prevent our laughter from escaping. It’s the most beautiful sight.

I’m expecting her to release her frustration in a huff of annoyance and then storm back into the room, but once again Mercy surprises me. It starts as a gurgling sound in her chest that almost immediately transforms into a snort. I’m worried that maybe we went too far with the vegetable oil because she appears to be crying. But nope, she proves me wrong when I realize she’s laughing. It starts as a quiet chuckle and erupts into full-fledged laughter. I can see her shoulders shaking with the need to contain the hilarity of the moment as her cackling echoes down the hallway.

Lindsey and I glance at each other briefly before returning our gaze to the hysterical commotion coming out of Mercy’s mouth. There’s still a smile on her face as she starts shaking her head back and forth before rubbing any excess oil off her body and then turning and reentering the dorm room.

“Hmm?” I say as I lift a brow at Lindsey.

She’s got a huge smile plastered on her face, and then we both burst out laughing.

“Well, that didn’t go the way we had expected,” she says, looking towards the mess we’d created.

It was definitely worth the attempt we made, but I was kind of hoping for just a bit more rage or, I don’t know... something! Instead, she laughs like it’s the greatest prank ever. It was the kind of laugh that you’d express if you got to witness something that good, not the kind you’d express if you were the target of it.

A moment later we watch as Mercy carefully makes her way out of the room, dodging the oily mess. Her hair is no longer dry and lying loosely around her shoulders. Instead, it’s damp and resting in a lopsided messy bun on the top of her head. Her carefully planned outfit has been replaced with a pair of sweatpants and an over-sized jersey. Lindsey and I watch as she disappears into the elevator. A second later my phone goes off.

Good one, Emma-nator.

I show Lindsey the message from Mercy, and we both start laughing all over again. I’m literally on the ground weak with laughter when it occurs to me that even though the prank was totally worth it, now it’s time to clean it up. Oh, joy. Lindsey and I pull ourselves out of hiding and get to work scrubbing the areas of carpet that weren’t lucky enough to be covered by the mat, which happened to be a lot more than we expected. Why did it have to be carpet?

It takes us an hour and a half to get it spotless, which gives me precisely fifteen minutes to get gorgeous so that I can meet Trevor for our ‘dream’ project. Now we get to dissect exactly why I’m dreaming about kissing some mystery man. This should be interesting.

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