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“You know that feeling you get in the pit of your stomach where you’re not sure whether you want to puke or not?” Corey asked, turning over on her sister’s bed so she was lying on her back.
“Yeah, what about it?” Lexi asked, carefully brushing her long caramel colored curls into seemingly effortless perfection.
“Have you ever actually puked from it?” Corey said, clutching her stomach like she was about to. Lexi started laughing then stopped when she saw her little sister’s reflection in the mirror.
“What are you worried about?” Lexi said, putting down her brush and picking up mascara, carefully applying it to her left eyelashes, then her right.
“I dunno…” Corey said, playing with a stray thread on her sister’s black v neck that she had been allowed to borrow for tonight.
“Don’t worry; your face’ll start breaking out. Are you going to do anything with your hair?” Lexi picked up her lip gloss, and carefully applied it to perfection. Like always, thought Corey.
“I did do something with it. I brushed it.” Corey said adamantly. Her hair had the same curls, but was a whole lot thinner, and a whole lot darker than Lexi’s, almost black. Lexi shook her head in exasperation, and her curls bounced.
“Sit child.” She commanded, and Corey obediently sat. “Your curls are perfect for a half pony, and it looks adorable with your face shape. Mine are too thick for it.” Lexi complained, yanking the top half of her sister’s hair into a ponytail. She stared at Corey’s reflection, then thoughtfully grabbed a green sparkly headband and stuck it in, right behind the bangs. It stuck out perfectly in her dark hair. “There. It matches perfectly.”
“It doesn’t match at all,” Corey had to point out.
“Which is why it matches.” Lexi said, slipping on some bright turquoise stiletto boots. “Put on black flats.” Corey slipped on her sister’s flats and followed her out the bedroom door. They crept past their mother, sitting on the couch watching the TV with blank eyes. She looked up at them, and went back to staring down the TV.
They went outside and got into Lexi’s little car, and drove down the street in silence. They stopped at the top of their hill and waited for Nikki to climb into the backseat.
“Jeez what took so long?” She complained jokingly.
“Yeah, we’re the ones that took forever,” Lexi said sarcastically, rolling her eyes at Nikki. They drove through downtown. It was unusually busy for a cold November night, at 10 o’clock.
“Wow. It’s going to be packed.” Corey said, watching from her window and absently running her long neon nails against her lower lip.
“Don’t bite your nails.” Lexi said.
“I’m not!” Corey snapped, with more vehemence than necessary. “Sorry…” she said with Lexi raised her eyebrows at the tone.
“Calm down. Jeez Corey.” Nikki said, trying to lighten the mood.
“Is it live music?” Corey asked.
“Nah, a DJ. But he’s pretty amazing, according to my sister.” Nikki said, watching the lights pulse from in front of capitol. They could hear, and feel, the beat of the music two blocks away, but they couldn’t tell what song it was. They parked and walked the rest of the way. Nikki and Corey kept seeing their friends, and then they ran into all of Lexi’s friends at once. Lexi grabbed Corey’s arm, and pulled her to the side.
“If you need to leave, find me or text me. It’ll be okay.” Lexi whispered, then ran off with her friends, giggling and laughing already. Corey stood speechless for a moment, Lexi’s never that nice… she thought as Nikki pulled her through the crowd after some of their vicious blue haired friends. Corey tried to look for someone, but at the same time appear to be not looking.
“Looking for me?” said someone, sliding his arms around Corey’s waist, and whispering in her ear. She shrieked.
“God, Travis, you gave a heart attack!” Corey said, turning to face him and at the same time stepping out of his arms. Then she felt all awkward for talking about her heart. “And no, I wasn’t looking for anyone. Arrogant much?”
“Nah, you’re over reacting, like always.” Travis said, grinning. “Hey Nikki.”
“Travis.” She said, rolling her eyes. Nikki then continued to scan the crowd.
“Tommy boy ain’t coming, sweetheart. He’s been grounded again.” Travis said, guessing her object.
“I’m not looking for Tom.” Nikki said, but stopped scanning the crowd. “What’s up with him always being grounded anyway?”
“He’s just naturally annoying, and Mom doesn’t like annoying,” Chase, Tom’s twin brother said, slipping out of the crowd.
“How’d you avoid it, but he got caught?” Nikki demanded. Everyone knew which twin she preferred, including the twins themselves.
“Talent,” Chase said.
“That we both happen to have,” continued Tom, as he stepped out from behind a parked car a few feet away.
“Tom!” Nikki shrieked, and gave him a huge hug.
“Hey Nikki! Hey Corey, Travis.”
“Travis said you were grounded,” Nikki informed him.
“I am.” Tom said with a mischievous glint in his eyes. Nikki laughed, and Corey rolled her eyes.
“How’d you find us so easily?” Nikki asked, making big puppy dog eyes at him.
“Corey.” Chase said, and Tom and Travis agreed, laughing.
“Huh?” I said, and they all laughed at me.
“Neon tights!” Chase said, flicking her thigh. She glanced down at her clothes, actually all Lexi’s. Orange neon camisole, with a black v neck over it, orange neon tights, with black short shorts over them.
“You’re like a lit up sign,” Travis said, running his fingers over the lace at the bottom of her cami, which rested just above her crotch, and resting his hand on the back of her thigh, just below her butt. Normally she would have liked the attention… But not tonight. She did her best not to squirm.
Tom and Nikki were standing talking quietly to each other, and another friend of theirs, Maddie, walked over.
“Hey Maddie!” Travis said.
“Hey Travis, Corey, Chase. Hi Tom, Nikki.” Maddie said, flicking her blonde bangs out of her face. “Nice neon tights Corey.”
“Thanks,” Corey said, grinning. Her smile faded as Travis once again touched her legs. She couldn’t believe no one was noticing, but was glad at the same time.
Travis and Maddie started talking, and despite the cold November night, Corey found herself overheated, wanting out of the press of people from all sides. Chase made eye contact with her, and flicked his eyes over toward the right. Corey nodded in relief. She trailed her fingers down Travis’ arm, and said “Be back.”
Corey followed Chase blindly out of the crowd, into a stand of trees on the edge of the capitol’s lawn. As soon as she was free of the people, Corey bent over at a tree trunk and puked into the grass. Then she walked over to another tree, upwind from the smell, and sat down in the cold grass. “Thanks,” she said shakily to Chase. He silently handed her a water bottle, and she gargled and spat, then took a long drink and handed it back,
“Okay, what’s up? You’re not actually sick.” Chase said, kneeling the grass beside her. Corey laughed shakily.
“No. I just hurt,” Corey said, unable to lie to him. Chase had been her best friend for years, and she’d trust him with almost anything. The only person closer to her was Lexi.
“Where?” Chase asked, brushing her bangs out of the way to keep eye contact.
“Umm… my shoulders and my ribs…” Corey trailed off into silence.
“Let me see them.” Chase commanded. She knew his ambition to become a doctor would be her downfall one day.
“I’m not pulling my shirt off here. Travis’d freak.” Corey said.
“Fine.” Chase grabbed her hand and led her into the Catholic Church next to the capitol. The doors to the main atrium were always unlocked, though the sanctuary stayed locked at night. He led her off to the side and into the handicap unisex bathroom. He closed and locked the door. “Remove.”
She sighed and obeyed, only partly self conscious of pulling off the v neck. She was still wearing the camisole underneath. Chase silently examined the purple bruises covering her shoulders. “It looks like someone grabbed your shoulders and-“ Chase started.
“Shook me?” Corey finished, and Chase grimly nodded.
“Okay, take off the camisole. Let me see the ribs.” Chase said, heedless of her bright red cheeks. She pulled off the orange tank, and stood there, shivering slightly, in her black bra. Chase’s face darkened. “Raise you arms.”
Corey did so, exposing the myriad of purple, blue, and black covering her ribs and upper torso. Chase swore, and punched the wall.
“Is that all of them?” he almost yelled. Corey’s eyes filled slowly with tears as she shook her head no. Chase swore again, and yelled “Where else?! Show me!”
With tears silently streaming down her face, Corey took off her shorts and tights, and stood there in front of Chase wearing only her black bra and black, white, and blue striped boy shorts. Every shade of bruise imaginable crossed her thighs, showing only a tiny bit of her truly pale upper legs. Chase kneeled in front of her and examined the bruises.
“Do they go all the way up?” Chase asked, gesturing to what her underwear covered. Corey nodded, biting her lip to keep the tears silent. “Corey?” he asked; he had not seen her nod.
“Yes…” She gasped out as he lightly poked a blackish one directly below her underwear line.
“I’m sorry,” Chase said, getting up from the floor. “Corey… some of these look like they were made yesterday. But some are a lot older.” Corey nodded again, fresh tears brimming over in her eyes. Chase swore again, and took a deep breathe to calm himself. Then he looked at Corey’s face, and saw the tears. “Oh Corey…” he said, and folded her into a tight hug. She let it all out, sobbing and snotting all over his shoulder as he held her tight.
After a long time, Corey’s tears finally slowed, and she was suddenly aware that she was hugging a boy in her underwear in a bathroom. She blushed deep scarlet and started putting her clothes back on. Once she was dressed again, she finally looked at Chase.
“Oh Chase! Your jacket!” Corey said, looking at her shoulder, now covered in tearstains and snot.
“No big deal,” Chase said, shrugging out of it. “I’ll drop it off beside Tom’s stuff as we walk back over there.” Corey visibly deflated as he said ‘over there.’ Over there meant back to Travis.
“It was him, wasn’t it? Travis.” Chase said, practically spitting out his name. Corey nodded, trying to keep herself from crying again. She quickly fixed her make up in the mirror, and followed Chase out of the bathroom and the church.
They walked across the lawn together, stopping once to drop Chase’s dirty jacket beside Tom’s hockey bag. “When you were looking around earlier, you weren’t looking for him, were you? You were trying to avoid him.”
“Yeah,” Corey said, nodding. “Look how well that worked.” Chase stopped her, a few feet before the crowd would engulf them, and looked her square in the eye. “Remember when we were 12 and I swore that I’d never let you get hurt? Then you fell off your bike and broke your arm 5 minutes later?” Corey laughed, and nodded. “I have a feeling this is going to be like that. Stay strong Corey.”
Then he led her into the crowd, and found their group of friends, which had quadrupled in size since they left. Chase immediately brought her over to Travis, and walked straight up to him and gave him the stink eye. “Corey has something to tell you. Come with us.” Corey shot a scared look at Chase, but he wouldn’t meet her eyes. Chase once again led her out of the crowd, this time with Travis following.
“What does Corey have to tell me?” Travis said, leering at her with what he thought to be a sexy smile. She was just plain scared.
“Corey asked me to say it for her,” Chase said. The three of them stood in a triangle, almost equally spaced apart. Travis rolled his eyes. Chase took a step closer. “I’ve seen the bruises,” Chase said, pausing to let it sink in. “If you ever touch her again, I will personally make sure you don’t live to see another day.” Travis stood stock still, and Chase thought he’d won. But Corey knew exactly what it was- the calm before the storm.
And Travis jumped forward, roughly reaching out to grab Corey’s arm. “You little s***!” He yelled, meaning to shake her. “You got naked for him!?”
Chase moved faster than Travis, and knocked him aside while Corey stood frozen, terrified. Travis looked at Chase, and for a moment, Corey thought he would punch him, but he merely looked, looked at Chase standing guard over her. Then he spat “This isn’t over.” And walked off, melting into the crowd.