a space for youth writing on mental health & identity
a space for youth writing on mental health & identity
“We should probably go inside,” Elle says. “It’s dangerous here, you know.”
The two other girls don’t listen. They stand with their backs to the house, watching the sky
curdle into black above. A sheet of dust covers the road, clothing the air in its smell. The street lights have gone out. Inside the house, the TV has turned to static, the screen blinking to life only in intervals; any minute now and it’ll be dead.
“We’re waiting for the boys,” Princess says. She twists the cus of her navy sweater. Elle glances at Andy for support, but Andy just shrugs, wavy hair bobbing along as if in agreement.
“Oh, to hell with them! I don’t want to be caught in the eye of a typhoon.” Elle checks her phone. The notication only came about an hour ago, when there wasn't a single trace of rain. Now, she can hear the distant thump of thunder. “Please.”
Princess rolls her eyes. “Kay.” She gets up, icking her ponytail behind her. “You have got to stop panicking, you know? Besides” —she wraps her manicured ngers on Andy’s elbow—“it’s just rain.”
But it isn’t. Her parents are a two hour drive away, and a supertyphoon is about to hit. “Whatever.”
When she nally follows inside, Princess is sprawled on the oor, feet on the coee table cluttered with half-empty pizza boxes, eyes on her phone. Gab’s passed out on the couch, pink shirt hiked up over her stomach. Andy sits with her legs crossed, sipping a cup of Coke. When Elle sits beside her, she smiles, puts a hand on Elle’s knee. Elle pretends not to notice.
“Where are they?” Andy shakes Princess’s shoulder.
“I don’t know.” She doesn’t look up from her phone. “Baste told me they’re caught up in trac.”
At the mention of his name, Elle shifts. “But they can make it, right?” Princess nods.
How long has it been since they last spent time together? The thought makes her stomach churn a little, even if she knows the answer. Twelve days. Not much, she knows. The last time they were here, he—
“We should do something,” Andy says. “Truth or dare?”
At the sound of Andy’s voice, Gab lifts her head and snorts. “We already did that last time.” Her face falls back into the pillow.
“Any other ideas?”
Gab shakes her head.
Princess drops the phone and claps her hands. “‘Kay. Truth or dare it is, then.” All four of
them le into Andy’s bedroom, the one located at the end of the hall. (“Cockroaches,” Andy said, the rst time she was in there. “They’re everywhere.”) She and Andy swoop in with no hesitation, but
Princess has to drag Gab by the arm, giggling about how she’s just salty because she got dumped during truth or dare, and Gab calls her an asshole but gets up anyway. All the while, Elle pours herself a cup of Coke and whispers to Andy, “They hate each other, you know. They’re laughing now, but they hate each other.” Andy smiles at her, staring in a way that’s grown too familiar—lips half-parted, pale cheeks ushed—and she wants to shake her. “Do you think,” Elle asks, and she wills herself not to look away, “Baste will be here?” Andy’s smile drops. “Yeah.” They fall into silence.
“Okay, okay, okay.” Princess saunters in and shuts the door behind her. “Truth or dare.” Outside, the rst pattering of raindrops.
“I thought you wanted to wait for the boys.” Elle laughs. At the corner of her eye, Andy watches her. Loosely, she curls a st.
Princess joins them on the bed and lifts up the bottle of wine. “Whoever says no has to drink from this.”
“That’s not a punishment,” Andy says. “That’s a gift.”
“Then you should thank me.”
The rain is louder now. They take their respective spots— Princess with her back against the
wall, Gab once again lying facedown on the bed, clutching a gingerbread man pillow. Andy scoots closer to Elle, and in that moment, she can’t stop her sharp intake of breath. Andy opens her mouth to say something, but decides against it. Serves you right, Elle thinks. Princess twists her hands around the bottle, bobs her head as if there’s music. “Just start already,” Elle says, grabbing it and perching atop an open sketchbook. She spins.
The bottle slows.
“This thing is rigged,” Gab says.
Princess makes a show of “hmms” and nger-snapping, tipping her head to the side. “Who,”
she drawls, “would you fuck, marry, and kill in this room?”
“Easy. Fuck” —she wags a nger at Elle— “marry” —she nods to Andy, who’s smoothing the
sheets with her hands—“and kill.” She grins at Princess.
“I love you too.” Princess laughs.
They play. At one point, Gab screams and smacks a pillow on Princess’s face, and at another,
when asked if she still likes Steven (“Don’t deny it, you liar!”), she takes a swig from the bottle and spits it out. Princess gets asked if she’s ever smoked, and she says yes. “I wouldn’t recommend it,” she says. “It’s for hot girlies only.”
All throughout, Elle shoots quick glances at Andy. She’s quiet, tugging at her curls, lost in thought. For a moment, Elle is almost tempted to say I’m sorry. But what was there to be sorry about? A kiss in a dark room isn’t a promise. It’s about time she knew, once and for all. She’s grown tired of seeing Andy tense whenever Baste is around. She’s had enough of the barely-concealed sneers whenever she’s with him.
Moist begins to fog the windows as it rains, rains, rains. Elle checks her phone for news updates, a new text from her mother, perhaps. Nothing. She imagines the oodwater pooling into the house, submerging all the beds.
“Truth or dare, E?” The others look at her expectantly.
Huge fucking mistake. “Are you dating anyone?”
They wait. It would be so easy to lie.
“I guess you could call it that.”
Princess and Gab break into laughter, as if they’ve found out some big secret. They think it’s
her. Gab fake-whispers “I think I know who it is.” Princess smirks. She can’t meet Andy’s eyes. Was it only two days before, when they stood at the tricycle stop with ice candy in hand, her scong when Andy asked if she was seeing anybody? “I don’t even like anyone,” she said.
Thunder booms outside, startling them. Elle ghts the urge to cry. She hated rain. Her mother always said she acts like it’s the end of the world whenever it pours for more than a few minutes. How can she not? The only thing she can think about is drowning.
“Andy,” someone says. “Truth or dare?”
She closes her eyes. If Baste were here, he’d squeeze her hand and tell her it’s gonna be alright. If he were here, they’d lay on the bed and talk about everything and nothing. She falls into the covers.
She looks up.
“Get in.” Princess gestures to the closet behind her.
“Earth to Elle, Earth to Elle.” She snaps her ngers. “Truth or dare, remember? Andy picked
dare. Now she has to make out with you.”
Very original, she thinks, but says nothing. The last time she was in the closet, she left with the
memory of Baste’s hand in hers.
She kicks o her slippers. She climbs in, Andy following suit. “Seven minutes!” Princess calls
from the room. She raises her phone. “I’ve got a timer over here.”
“I bet you don’t know how to read the time,” Elle yells back. Princess rolls her eyes and gives
her the middle nger. With one last look, she slams the door shut. Great.
She can no longer hear the rain from here. Cramped, thick with heat and clothes—the perfect
place to stash a body. Elle smiles, amused. Skeletons in the closet. She avoids Andy’s eyes. She hugs her legs to her chest, trying to put as much space between them. Even in the near-pitch black dark, she can still see her. Andy’s skin is so pale and powdery, the rest of her body a long stretch of paper. It reminds her of funeral owers. She pushes hanged clothes away from her face. “Aren’t your parents supposed to be back by now?”
She can hear Gab and Princess arguing, but their words are mued. Soon, their voices will
drown out the whole house. What time is it, anyway? Outside, Gab calls Princess a stupid pig (or is it just ‘stupid’?). She checks her phone: six p.m. Maybe Baste and Steven will never arrive.
“Was it true?” Andy says.
“You know what I’m talking about.”
A pause. Princess screams something close to “fuck you.”
No reply. Just when she thinks it’s over and done with, Andy adds: “How long?”
Their monthsary was last week. “Only a few days ago.”
Finally, she wills herself to look at Andy. She’s running her ngers on the closet door, chin
resting on her knees. It’s been years since that morning they stood in the school yard and she said, I like you in the way girls should like boys, and she knows—
“Did I ever tell you about this one dream I had?”
“No.” Back in the room, a door slams.
“It had you in it. It’s the kind of story you’d love to draw, I think. We were living in this
run-down mall in the middle of nowhere. Everyone in the world was dead because of—” God, her dreams are weird.
“Mass suicide by consuming dog food.”
They can’t help it. They giggle.
“Anyway. You were at the top of an escalator, and I was at the bottom. I kept trying to reach
you, but every time I took a step, someone pulled me back. “Then, you were gone.”
“Did I eat the dog food too?” Andy shoves her lightly.
“No, you ate cat food.” Here it comes. “The worst part was...Dream Me was relieved.”
“Do you know who kept pulling me away?”
Andy blinks, waiting.
Only three weeks ago, they had agreed to never talk about him again. Andy almost cried when
she saw them sitting together, his arm around her shoulder. “It’s him.”
Another pause. This time, it may never end. “It was always him, wasn’t it?”
“You don’t get it. I—”
Someone thumps on the closet door and swings it open. Light spills in, blinding for only a second. “Time’s up!” Princess winks at them. “Did you guys have fun?” She’s way too pleased with herself.
Without another word, Andy leaves.
Princess leans on the closet’s door frame. “She was blushing,” she whispers, and when Elle doesn’t reply, says: “Hey?” Elle burrows deeper into the stack of wrinkled clothes. She can hear Gab asking why Andy left, urging Princess to answer the door because Baste and Steven are here. She knows she should get up and follow Andy, answer Princess’s questions, do something, yet her voice is caught in
the hollow of her throat. All she can do is sit here and long for the rain, pulling her into a ood, sinking her into the sea. “I’m ne,” Elle says. To whom, she doesn’t know. “I’m ne,” she says again, but Princess is already gone.
Bella Majam studies Creative Writing at the Philippine High School for the Arts. Her work has previously appeared in Halu-Halo Journal, where she serves as a prose editor. In her spare time, she likes to look for cheesy horror movies and convince her friends to watch them with her. You can find her @beelaurr on Instagram.
* = Editors' Choice work
Unless otherwise noted, all pictures used are open-source images in the public domain.