The Boiler

Brynne Rebele-Henry

FOREST GALE

Open up, Hills says. Hands me a mug of chamomile tea with a clove of garlic sticking out. She’s got her red lipstick on and three strings of different colored pearls (one buttery yellow, one bone white, one almost pink). Her monogrammed pajamas are skewed, three buttons in the wrong holes. Her hair is a looped-up nest that reminds me of burned angel hair pasta and knotted sewing thread, thin and ragged but still shimmering in the off light. Rayn comes in, she’s still got her thundercloud-shaped pledge brooch on from twelve months ago, but still. Mine is a lily, the pearls look like tongues or dripping spit. I didn’t want to break it myself, so I put it into an envelope and buried the envelope under my science textbooks, which is to say, it’s gone. I bought all the textbooks at first but then I just started rubbing my fingers over the jaw-lines of the Forester House members and asking them to do the work for me. I always say yes when they ask if I want to get dinner at the all-you-can-eat crab place but never show up. I say that my cat died, or that my stomach hurts, or I just don’t answer, have Hills say that my brother is sick or I’m having women’s troubles, they turn bright red at that one, start to stammer even, she says.

Then there are the Woodland brothers, and the Sky Sisters (our rival sorority), the Foresters, and us, the Flower Family. Tonight’s the Maypole, so I need to look my best. I shake my hair out, tangled from last night. I smell like box wine and sweat. Go to the bathroom. Brush my hair, twenty strokes each side, then smear foundation on, three thin layers is my secret: not enough to look stanky but enough to look airbrushed. Perfect. And then mascara and nothing else on my eyes. Concealer. The blush that comes in a pot. Lip gloss. I want to look fresh, blossom-like. I curl the ends of my hair and put on the bright pink sundress with roses on it. I call this one my secret garden dress, because it makes my tits look like honeydew melons and smoothes out the bump of my stomach, and if you look close enough, you can see my thighs through the too-thin fabric. Espadrilles. A yellow purse. Pearl earrings. A gold barrette that looks like a rose, my namesake now. When I came here I was just Rose but now my name is Rosy. Like, everything’s just Rosy everything’s just good. One of the Foresters called me that one night after I blew him in a bathroom stall, and I liked it. Started introducing myself like that, “Hi, I’m Rosy, just good, how about you, I can make you good.”

I open my purse looking for my phone, but even better: three pills. Xanax, Adderall, and something I can’t identify. I swallow them all dry. Nice. Go to breakfast with Hills and eat one orange and nothing else. The pills are kicking in. Shouldn’t have taken them on empty. Whatever. I set my face into a smile. Half a cup of coffee and a banana and I’m out and ready. Skip classes again because who cares, one of us will just blow the professors or tell the only woman we had to recover after we all got our hearts broken by the same guy. When I first heard that ForestGale was a Christian college I wasn’t into it, but then I realized how many parties and guys with stacks there are here and I went for it. That was last year.

Now I don’t even go to class. I’m going to find a guy and leave soon anyway. Be a wife or whatever. Hills says that with tits like mine I can do whatever and she’s right. No one cares. Hills has a flat chest, nothing up top or bottom, but her face makes it up. Her cheekbones jut out perfect and her jawline could cut glass. Not to mention her eyes are this smashing shade of silver. All the guys stumble over her, but last year there was this rumor that guys aren’t what she’s after. Mine are just brown but the last guy I did said that he loved them because he could see specks of gold around my pupils and that gold is hot. That was such a nice thing to say. I loved it. But then his girlfriend walked in on him bending me over his desk and she freaked. Went totally mental. Crazy. Bitch.

I can feel the dull buzz spreading through my arms and face and stomach. I think I mixed uppers and downers, though, and that shit isn’t fun. Pills are pills, as Rayn would say. Last year we started calling her the Capsule Queen because she could just pop them all day and nothing. She claimed her head was spinning, but she seemed totally normal. Hills knocks on my door, “You want to go get some Vitamin Water?” She thinks that Vitamin Water keeps you skinny, and I’m not sure if I agree, but, look at her thighs, obviously it’s doing something. I say yes. We walk down the street and I feel weird, try not to look at her. I don’t know why. Get the waters. I choose the pink one. Nice. Nice. Bile. Go to the bathroom in the store and puke. Wipe my mouth. Meet her back at the register. Notice a new bruise on my ankle. Don’t remember how.

Hills has a little bite mark on her shoulder. I think about asking who from but decide I don’t want to know. We sit on the curb outside and drink the waters in one go and then she stands up. Brushes off her dress. Says, “Come on.” I get up. The light is reflecting from her face like a beacon and the ground underneath me ripples. I tell myself that I am a rock or moss and put one heel in front of the other and when I start to fall I think: but I thought I was solid. Then I’m sitting on the ground and my dress is covered in dirt and  gravel. A crowd of boys and Hills. They help me up. I stand shaky. Say “oops” and giggle all cute. Open my eyes wide. I steady myself on Hills’s shoulder and then when I start to fall again pretend to hug her but really I’m hanging on to her. She feels warm next to me. We stagger down the road.

Get back to the house and it’s whatever. She looks at me all concerned but I say “I’m fine, just tired.” Then go puke again. Don’t remember what happened last month but I woke up with a guy and didn’t remember if I made him use one. But it’s whatever. I can will my body to do anything, true story. Once I was about to gag on a guy’s dick but I made my body swallow the vomit. And once I got alcohol poisoning but I refused to do anything about it and it went away. So I’m not knocked up. I know it. If I was I would know it. I don’t remember if I got my period last month. I was doing a lot of specials so it doesn’t matter anyway. I think maybe I should get tested but I don’t think I care enough, so it’s whatever. I drink a cup of water and put on more mascara then fall asleep.

Wake up. Hills is shaking me. Says, we need to go soon. I get up. Put on my tight white dress that makes me look all Marilyn and some red lipstick and another chain of pearls and leave. We get there and there’s already beer everywhere, mirror lines placed in a circle around the base of the maypole. I pick up a pink ribbon and start twirling around. Everything blurs and soon it’s dark out and no one else is spinning so I stop and snort a few lines and then go into the Forester House. The boys are jostling and dancing and one rubs his boner on me. Cute. They all try to give me red cups but I’m not taking any. See Hills. She’s dancing, her arms out, her silver strappy dress has slipped off one shoulder and you can see that she isn’t wearing a bra. I go over to her and put a hand on her  shoulder. She smiles all blurry. Then two guys are pushing us together and her mouth is on mine and our hipbones are pressed together and she’s sucking on my bottom lip. Everyone is chanting “kiss” and whistling like we are two stars, like we are two explosions. Then she pushes me away and I start to run. To the house. I don’t know. Somewhere.

Get to the house and take my dress off. Then she’s there and we are on each other and I don’t know what to do but her mouth is on mine and I feel weird and gross but it feels good and I already know what I will say after: I was high. I was drunk. I’m straight. I know. So I let her suck my clit and I let her push my head into hers and I take it all and when she bites my neck I moan.

Wake up. My thighs and hands are covered in cum but it doesn’t look like jizz. Drink a glass of water with some lemon squeezed in. Then I remember. And I puke. In the mirror my belly looks hard, rounder. Need to eat less. Yeah. Drink another glass and decide to stay in bed. Stay like this all afternoon. Then I hear a weird sort of moaning and decide to go scare Rayn and her on-again off-again guy. It’s coming from Hills’s room. Open the door and say “Hey slut, hope you’ve got a rubber.” But it’s not Rayn. Hills is straddling the psych professor we all think is totally weirdo because she always wears blue cardigans no matter what, and Hills is sucking her nipples and she’s got a hand on Hills’s bony ass and they turn and look at me and their eyes and mouths are two giant tire-like circles of surprise. Like animals before you run them over. Hills falls off the bed. I run out and into the street.

Don’t know where I’m going. Wait. I do. The liquor store. Doesn’t card doesn’t care. Get a bottle of Raspberry Smirnoff. Drink. Don’t know how much. I eat a tomato. Sit on the kitchen floor. There’s a party tonight but I don’t know if I want to go. Hills comes in. I tell her to fuck off but she won’t. She sits down across from me, leans against the dishwasher we never use. Let our dishes pile in the sink. It’s a punishment. If you eat too much the dishes pile up like a mountain of fat on your thighs. So we don’t. I don’t know what to say but then she grabs me and our tongues are touching. She’s holding me on top of her on the kitchen floor and then someone screams. Rayn is standing above us, with her on-again off-again, he’s shirtless and holding on to her ass like it’s a football. They’re just staring down at us. Everything shatters. Rayn closes her eyes again. I clear my throat. “I was just teaching Hills how to do the tongue trick.” They’re looking at me like I vomited. I try to say something else but my mouth won’t work. Hills clears her throat. “They can tell, Rosy.”

I don’t say anything. Just stand. Get into bed. Lock my door. Hills knocks fifty times before I let her in. I know. I counted. She curls up next to me and I can feel my belly pressed against hers and it feels warm and weirdly wet. When I look down there’s blood and I think, oh good, I got it. But when I sit up to go get a Tampax something feels wrong and that’s when I see that the clots aren’t just blood. Hills looks down and her face goes paper white. Helps me up and onto the toilet. I try to keep it in but can’t and I can hear it crunch in the toilet. Everything hurts. Hills pats my back, pushes my clenched legs open a little more and holds them there. Whispers. She knows what she’s doing. I look at her and raise an eyebrow and it’s almost funny. She nods. “My sister.” I don’t say anything, but I don’t need to. After she helps me up, I curl up on a pile of towels and feel everything shift inside my belly. She curls up next to me and the blood soaks through the towels and onto the floor and it feels warm.

Wake up. My thighs are stained the same color as a rose. Ha. I get up and more falls out. Go to the window and there’s yelling. Ten boys. All holding shovels. Rayn is there too. In a cardigan and heels. Hills is already up, looking out the window. She starts throwing things into a bag. I do too. I don’t know what. I get five Kotexes and pad them into a pair of black lace knickers. Get dressed fast. Wear heels even though I’m fucked, can barely walk. I can get most of my dresses and heels into a suitcase in four minutes. Fact. Hills can too. We go out the back of the house but her car is in front. I walk up to the car as the boys yell and they start to walk towards me, waving their shovels, but I get in and do the locks and pull out of the driveway so fast that they don’t have time to. To do. Whatever it is. When I pull out of the driveway they all just stand there.

For a minute I forget if I got Hills but she’s there. Our suitcases are in the back of the car. She must have put them there. We drive for six hours. Don’t know where we’re going. I start to fall asleep and think about stopping but then decide that I don’t care and I swerve and almost hit a tree and then I just stop and we sit there in silence. Hills unlocks the car door. She gets out and gets her suitcase. Doesn’t say anything. I try to talk but I feel like I’m drowning, my lungs surrounded in something thick. She starts walking down the road. It’s dark and she’s wearing stilettos but I don’t try to stop her. Just turn the car around and start driving. I’m halfway on the road and half off. I close my eyes. I will stop this humming in my head. I will be clean. The lines in the road are swerving and my stomach sloshes. The car is humming and the road turns into an ocean and I am swimming. The air is blurry. I am steering my ship. I am almost there.

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Brynne Rebele-Henry’s fiction and poetry have appeared in such journals as The Volta, So to Speak, Adroit, Pine Hills Review, The Offending Adam , Denver Quarterly, Prairie Schooner, and is forthcoming in Fiction International among other places. Her book Fleshgraphs is forthcoming from Nightboat Books in 2016. She was born in 1999 and currently lives in Richmond, Virginia