Alexcia was born in a farmhouse in rural Vermont. Her parents were New Yorkers who had decided to get back to nature, buy a farm out in the middle of nowhere and grow a garden and raise chickens, and when her mother had gotten pregnant, they decided to do the delivery themselves, at home, in their nice sunny bedroom instead of some antiseptic cold white hospital. They had botched it horribly, and Alexcia’s mother Bonnie had almost died. After that, they moved back to the city, and Bonnie was always sick. It was mystifying to everyone- even Bonnie’s doctors- why she never got better, why five, ten, sixteen years later she was still mostly bedridden and weak and sickly and angry. Sometimes she told Alexcia it wasn’t her fault, but mostly she screamed at her, It’s because of you I can’t get out of bed! I gave up my health for you! I gave up everything! For you! She mostly screamed like this when she wanted something.

Bonnie was a small, beautiful woman, fine-boned and delicate, with long gold hair and blue cat eyes, lovely even after sixteen years of infirmity. Alexcia’s father was called Thomas, and he was tall and rugged and dark, the perfect foil to Bonnie. He didn’t seem terribly troubled by his wife’s condition: he coddled her, and hired other people to coddle her while he was away, and tried to get Alexcia to coddle her, too. “He’s whipped,” Alexcia would tell her friends. “She’s got him on a short leash, and he’s cool with it.”

Alexcia, however, was not cool with it. Alexcia thought her mother was a melodramatic manipulative bitch, and she had no intention of putting up with it. She purposely didn’t do the things her mother begged her to do (wear nice clothes, get involved in extracurricular activities, invite Amy Haibalt over for tea). She wore T-shirts and old jeans, and hung out with the stoners, and smoked horrible-smelling foreign cigarettes, and inserted the word “fuck” into her conversation as frequently as possible. She was, consciously, a disappointment, but she was happy in her carefully designed life.


Two weeks before Alexcia’s junior prom, Bonnie called her into the sickroom.

It was, nominally, Thomas and Bonnie’s bedroom, but Thomas never slept in it, and Bonnie rarely left it. When Alexcia went in, Bonnie was lying in the bed, her hair spread out picturesquely around her on the pillow. She motioned Alexcia to sit on the edge of the bed, then smiled. “So, Ally,” she said. “How are you, dear?”

Alexcia knew her mother was up to something, but she played along. “I’m okay.”

“How’s school?”

“It’s fine. I got an A in English.”

“That’s wonderful, dear,” Bonnie said. Her smile seemed sincere, and for a moment Alexcia was moved. For a moment. “And how are your friends?”

“They’re okay,” said Alexcia, not getting into it. Not saying, Actually, they’re not so good- Adam’s on probation and Scott thinks his girlfriend might have given him VD and Lizzy’s stepfather kicked her out. Not wanting to hear it.

“That’s nice,” Bonnie replied. Then, as though she had just thought of it: “Oh! And I hear the prom is in a couple of weeks! Anne Haibalt told me it’s all Amy can talk about. You must be pretty excited, too.”

Alexcia shrugged. “Hmm.”

“Do you have a dress picked out yet?” Bonnie asked, her voice so light it seemed in danger of floating away.

Alexcia knitted her brows and looked at her mother. Bonnie was leaning forward, smiling, her eyes anxious and predatory.

“I don’t think I’m going, Mom,” she said. “The prom just isn’t... my kind of thing.”

Bonnie laughed liltingly. “Alexcia! It’s the prom! It’s one of the biggest nights of a girl’s life. If you don’t go, you’ll always regret it.”

“I guess.” Alexcia looked down, picking at the nap on the bedspread.

Bonnie was silent for a moment. Finally, she said, “Alexcia... is it that no one’s asked you?”

Alexcia shrugged. “Who would?” What she meant was: who, among the antisocial, snarly boys she knew, would ask her or anyone else? But, of course, Bonnie didn’t understand.

“Oh, Alexcia!” she cried. Her voice was simultaneously sympathetic and exasperated. “Plenty of boys would be interested in you if you just made an effort!” Her brow creased. “Of course, it’s probably too late for you to find someone now--”

Relief washed over Alexcia. “Better luck next year, huh?” she said.

“No, no,” Bonnie murmured. “I’m sure I can find someone for you to go with. Julia Piercy’s son, perhaps?”

“God, Mom! No!” Alexcia was aghast.

“Oh, now-”

“No, really,” Alexcia insisted. “I won’t go.”

“Alexcia. As I said, if you don’t go, you’ll regret it.” Bonnie’s tone of voice suggested that this regret would occur sooner rather than later.

“Oh, God.” Alexcia stood up. “I don’t want to go to the prom. I’m serious.”

“Yes, well,” Bonnie said, “I think I know what’s best.”

“Whatever,” Alexcia murmured, backing away from the bed. Once she was out in the hall, she stomped one foot furiously, and then collapsed into silent, helpless laughter.


On Saturday nights, Alexcia and her friends usually smoked a bowl and then went out somewhere- to a party or to a club if they were lucky, but mostly to movies or to a diner. That night, they didn’t go anywhere- they were so stoned they couldn’t bring themselves to leave Scott’s apartment. Scott himself was morose, even after he got fucked up. He was convinced that his girlfriend of two years had given him gonorrhea, which meant she would have had to pick it up from someone else, and he alternately moaned about his physical agony and his faithless chick. Alexcia and Adam and Dan and Lizzy were all lying on the floor, giggling and talking and passing around a bag of microwave popcorn, when Alexcia said, “So, guess what? My mom thinks she’s gonna find me a date to the prom.”

“Wha?” Adam asked, chortling. “You’re going to the prom? You freak.” He cast a disgusted look at her.

“I’m not going,” Alexcia muttered bitterly. “She’s fucking crazy. She’s, like, desperate for me to have a picture perfect prom.” She was lying next to him on the rug, and she rolled over on her side, facing away from him, the carpet scratching her cheek. She was vaguely in love with Adam, and mildly hated him for not loving her back.

Adam sensed her anger. “Alexcia, don’t psycho out,” he said with irritation. “I was kidding.”

“Fine,” Alexcia muttered. “I’m sorry, I’m just not happy about this prom thing.”

“Just don’t go,” Adam advised, leaning over her so he could see her face. “Just tell her no.” He set the popcorn bag down in front of her. “It’s no big deal.”

“I know,” Alexcia said, rolling onto her back, giving him a quick hug. “It’s cool.”

He leaned over her. “Yeah. Don’t worry about it.” His face was six inches above hers, she could feel his breath on her face.

She shook her head. “I’m not worrying. I’m not.”


A few days later, Alexcia came home from school to find Bonnie lying on the couch, a thin blanket over her legs. “Ally,” she called, “could you come here, please?”

Alexcia advanced cautiously into the living room. “Yeah? What’s up?”

Bonnie smiled, a delighted, anticipatory smile, as though someone had just set a seven-course meal before her. “I’ve found you a prom date.”

Alexcia’s stomach sank. “Oh, no, Mom. I told you-”

Bonnie ignored her. “His name is Joshua Wright. He’s Louise’s son. I doubt you know him, he goes to St. John’s.”

“Mom, I really don’t want to go,” Alexcia groaned.

“And,” Bonnie said, “I asked Amy Haibalt, and she said she’d be delighted to take you shopping for a prom dress.”

Alexcia’s dread became physical pain. Bonnie and Anne Haibalt were best friends, which meant that their daughters were expected to be best friends as well. Alexcia and Amy had tried, they had been, ostensibly, like sisters until they got to be twelve years old and realized they hated each other and always had. They were civil now, barely, but Amy had become, as Adam called her, the Teen Dream: beautiful and perky and loved and involved in everything, and Alexcia was decidedly none of that.

“Amy Haibalt?” Alexcia whined.

“It’ll be a chance for you two to catch up,” Bonnie said. “I’m so excited for you. You’ll have so much fun! And you’ll like Joshua, he’s such a cute boy. He’s blonde. He’s on the lacrosse team at St. John’s.” Bonnie’s voice had an air of girl talk, of juicy gossip. “Apparently, he’s quite the ‘player’”--making quotation marks with her fingers-- “but he’s a gentleman.”

“Players tend to be,” Alexcia muttered. “Mom, I’m telling you, I do not want to go to the prom. Thank you, but--”

Bonnie looked down, biting her lip. When she raised her head, her eyes were full of tears. “Fine, Alexcia. Fine. I’m sorry I tried.” Her voice raised an octave with each word. “I’m sorry I did anything for you. I’m sorry I got you a date. I’m sorry I tried to arrange for you to have a good time. I’m sorry I sacrificed my health and my youth for you. I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry!” By that point, she was screaming. She looked at Alexcia for a moment, shaking throughout her whole tiny frame, looking absurdly like some kind of toy breed dog, before bursting into hysterical sobs.

“Mom-” Alexcia began, but Bonnie waved a hand at her, dismissively, her crying growing louder and more intense.

“I’m sorry,” Alexcia said, guilt and anger swirling within her. She knew she was being manipulated, and it was working.

Bonnie just shook her head, still weeping.

“Mom!” Alexcia exclaimed. She just wanted Bonnie to stop crying, she just wanted Bonnie to listen to her. But she didn’t and she didn’t and she didn’t, and before Alexcia knew it, she was crying too.

Bonnie looked up, her face shiny with tears, and saw Alexcia, standing in the doorway, crying silently and lustily into her hands. She extended her arms, and croaked, “Come here, dear,” to her daughter. And Alexcia went. Bonnie wrapped her in rigid, shaking arms. “Honey, honey,” she moaned through her sobs. “Can’t you just do this one thing for me? I worry about you. I worry about you so much.”

“Mom,” Alexcia cried, “I hate this whole idea.”

Bonnie wept harder.

“Okay, Mom,” Alexcia found herself saying, hating herself and wanting to take back the words even as she said them, hating herself for being so weak and so easily led. “I’ll go. I’ll go with- with Joshua Wright. I’ll go dress shopping with Amy. Whatever you want. Okay, Mom? Okay?”

“I don’t want you to go if you’re not going to have fun,” Bonnie murmured.

“I’ll have fun,” Alexcia promised.


Two days later, Alexcia found herself standing in a dressing room at a store she had never been to before, a store with unfeasibly expensive clothes displayed in chic ways and shilled by bored, mean, beautiful girls. The dress she was wearing was made of pink satin, with a strapless bodice and a skirt that fell in elaborate folds to the floor. She hated it and she loved it- she knew that Adam would laugh at her, would tell her she looked like a Barbie doll, would tell her how lame she was for even bothering. But she knew it was beautiful. She knew that in it, she was beautiful, she blended in, she looked like everyone else, which she thought would be a comfort at the prom.

Cautiously, she peeked out of the dressing room. Amy Haibalt was sitting in a low-slung leather chair, looking annoyed to be there. “Let’s see it,” she said.

Alexcia stepped out of the dressing room. Amy raised her eyebrows. “You look pretty,” she said, condescendingly. “I think pink is your color. Maybe with an updo...” She nodded. “Definitely. Get it.”

“You think?” Alexcia asked.

“Oh, definitely.” Amy smiled, with obvious insincerity.

Alexcia retreated into the dressing room. She was pulling her jeans on when she heard Amy’s voice on the other side of the door.

“So,” she said, “you’re going with Joshua Wright, huh? Isn’t he cute?”

“I don’t know,” Alexcia called. “I never met him. I got fixed up.”

“Oh,” Amy said. “Well, believe me, he’s fine.”

“That’s good.”

Amy was silent for a moment. “So, um, Alexcia,” she said finally. “I know we haven’t hung out for a long time, and I know we never did get along that well, but- I want you to know, I do consider you to have been a friend. And I do miss you sometimes.” Her voice was clear and sharp through the slatted door.

Alexcia paused in the middle of buttoning her shirt. She couldn’t understand why Amy was telling her this. She had meant it. And Alexcia was glad to hear it. And she still despised Amy wholeheartedly.

“Me, too,” Alexcia pronounced, for lack of anything else to say.

When she emerged from the dressing room a moment later, carrying the pink dress across her arms like a body, Amy looked at her cheerfully. “So, are we ready to get the dress?” she asked. Her voice was fake again, her friendliness forced. It was as though nothing had been said.


The night before the prom, Alexcia went to see a movie with Adam and Lizzy. Afterwards, they stumbled out into the cool night, Alexcia and Lizzy chatty and giggly, Adam characteristically silent.

“So, I got my prom dress,” Alexcia announced, loading her voice with malice. “It’s totally queer.” She glanced at Adam. “It makes me look like a Barbie doll.”

Lizzy squealed. “Oh my God! Prom Barbie!”

Adam snorted. “You realize how disgusting this whole thing is?”

“Yeah,” Alexcia said sheepishly. “My mom, like, wigged out, and guilted me into going. You know how she is.”

“It has nothing to do with how she is,” Adam retorted. “You’re a pushover, is all.”

Alexcia remembered kneeling on the living room floor, her knees pressed painfully against the planks, her mother’s arms around her. She remembered the smell of pressed powder and Amarige and shrimp salad- on Bonnie’s breath- and wine, she remembered how the smell had closed around her and made her feel sick and trapped. She remembered her mother’s sobs. She wondered if Adam could have resisted, in her place. She thought probably he could.

“Yeah,” Alexcia said. “I guess I am.”

They had reached the cars- Lizzy and Adam had both driven. Alexcia had come with Lizzy, as always, and hoped, as always, that Adam would say, “Hey, why don’t I take Ally home?” He usually never did, so when he did that night, Alexcia almost dropped the cigarette she was in the process of lighting.

“Sure,” Alexcia said. “If you don’t mind.”

Adam frowned. “I offered, didn’t I?”

Alexcia laughed, somewhat angrily.

“Bye, Alexcia,” Lizzy called.

“Bye, Lizzy,” replied Alexcia, merrily, jumping into Adam’s car.

Riding down the street, Alexcia snuck at look at Adam, in profile. His lips were pursed, his brows were knit, and she felt like her heart was bleeding into her chest, he was so beautiful.

“Thanks for giving me a ride,” Alexcia said.

“Mmm-hmm.” He kept his eyes on the road.

Alexcia felt chastised, and didn’t speak again until he spoke to her.

What he said was, “So, who’s your escort to this thrilling event?”

“Some guy I’ve never even met,” Alexcia told him. “Joshua Wright.”

“I know him,” Adam said. “He goes to Emily’s parties all the time.” Emily was Adam’s older sister. “He’s a shit. He fucks anything that walks. Keep your legs crossed.”

“Thanks for the tip,” Alexcia replied. “I was told he’s a player.”

“Heh. That’s quite an understatement.”

“Oh, really?”

“Yeah. Your mom set you up with him?” Adam asked incredulously.

“Yeah,” Alexcia said. “I guess she didn’t know.”

Adam glanced at her sidelong. “Or maybe she did. Maybe she’s trying to get you to score. You know, as another step on the way to ‘normal’ teenhood.”

Alexcia squirmed. “Adam. That’s so creepy.”

“No, it’s not,” Adam laughed. “It’s true. She’s a psycho.”

“Don’t say that about my mother!” Alexcia exclaimed.

Adam snorted. “You don’t care.”

Alexcia shrugged. “No.”

They pulled up in front of Alexcia’s apartment building. “So,” Adam said, “I guess I’ll see you. Have fun at-” he glowered- “the prom.”

“Ha,” she replied. “Right.”

She leaned over to open her door, and he grabbed her by the shoulder. “Listen, Ally-”

“Yes?” Alexcia asked, making a studious effort to control her voice. This is it, she thought. That one phrase beat through her head like a mantra. This is it, this is it, this is it.

“Call me tomorrow, okay?” he asked. “Okay,” she said.

This is not fucking it, Alexcia thought. This is not it, and there will never be an it, because Adam doesn’t want me.

And then he pulled her- rudely, by the shoulders- to him, and kissed her. It wasn’t a particularly good kiss. She was so startled that she didn’t respond for a moment, and even after she did it was awkward. Neither of them was very experienced, but nor were they so inexperienced as to be bad kissers- it was as though they both realized the absurdity of the two of them getting together, and were kissing half in jest.

Finally, he pulled away- or, more accurately, pushed her away- and smiled. “Remember, call me,” he said.

“Okay,” she murmured. “I will.” She smiled at him and got out of the car. In the vestibule of her building, she sat on the cold tile floor and grinned so hard she thought her cheeks would split.


The next morning, before she even opened her eyes, she thought: Adam. She was racked with tremors, and it took a second before she realized it was because she was happy.

All day, she felt full of a supernatural energy: the most mundane things, the things she did every day and hated every day, were new and fascinating. She felt like she had grown taller, or the focus of her eyes had changed, or something: everything looked different. She wanted to call him but she was afraid to, afraid talking to him wouldn’t be as perfect as she wanted it to be, afraid that if it was, she would have nothing else to look forward to all day. Her dread of the prom that night intensified: it would just be a distraction. All she wanted to do was be with Adam, or, barring that, be alone thinking about Adam.

At four, Bonnie’s stylist came over to fix Alexcia’s hair. His name was AnthynnJ, pronounced “Anthony”. He sat Alexcia in a kitchen chair and began pulling her hair around rollers and through irons and onto the crown of her head, all the while chattering: talking about his own prom, asking her questions, flattering her.

“Girl,” he said, “you have got some nice hair! So thick!”

“Thank you,” Alexcia murmured.

“So,” AnthynnJ asked, “who’s the lucky guy?”


“Your prom date!” he cried. “Is it your boyfriend?”

“Oh,” Alexcia said. “No. Just some guy I got set up with.”

“Ah, I see. So you’re flying solo right now?”

“Oh, no, no,” Alexcia replied. “I do have a boyfriend. His name’s Adam.” For a moment, she wondered if she wasn’t being a bit presumptuous. But Adam wasn’t a player, at all. The kiss must have meant something.

“And you’re going to the prom with someone else? Girl!”

Alexcia laughed. “It’s a long story.”

After AnthynnJ left, Amy Haibalt, who seemed to have been designated Alexcia’s official prom guide, came over to do her make-up. The two girls didn’t speak at all, outside of phrases like, “Close your eyes,” or “Do your lips like this- like this.” After a half hour, Amy left to go get ready herself, and Alexcia went and looked in the hall mirror. She reeled back when she saw herself- she really did look like Barbie. Her hair was balanced atop her head in intricate coils, her eyes were frosted, and stricken across with very thick eyelashes, her lips were confectionery pink. She looked perfect, she looked just like the girls she hated. Adam would think she was ridiculous. Luckily, Adam would not see it.

And suddenly, all she wanted was to talk to him, to Adam who she loved and who would treat her like scruffy stoner Alexcia and not like a pretty whored-up promgoer. She grabbed the cordless phone from the hall table and quickly dialed his number.

“Hello?” a female voice answered the phone.

“Hi,” Alexcia said. “Is Adam there?”

“Just a moment.”

She heard scuffling in the background, and a minute later, Adam’s voice. “Hello?”

“Hey,” she said. “It’s Alexcia.”

“Oh.” He was silent.

“How are you?”

“I’m okay,” he said. “Aren’t you supposed to be at the prom?”

“Not for another hour,” she told him. “What’re you doing?”

“Watching TV.”


For a moment neither of them spoke. Then Adam said, “Hey, Ally, about that thing last night.”

That thing. It was a thing. Alexcia couldn’t stand to think what was coming, she just vaguely knew it would be bad. “Yeah?”

“Look, I hope you didn’t take that the wrong way,” Adam said. He didn’t sound the least bit nervous or guilty or sorry. “I sort of have a problem with boundaries. But I figured you knew that- I mean, you’re my best friend- so I knew you wouldn’t read a lot of bullshit into that.”

“Oh, yeah,” Alexcia said. “Of course.” Problem with boundaries. Adam’s parents were psychologists, and were big on things like boundaries. Adam usually made fun of their “psychobabble b.s.”. Apparently, for all his bitching, it could come in handy.

“You’re so great, Ally,” he said. “Nobody else would understand about this.”

“I’ll always understand you,” she heard herself saying. Her whole body was contracting and shaking with rage and disappointment and sorrow, but her voice was coming steady and calm out of her mouth, saying kind, reasonable things, completely independent of her. I’m running on autopilot, she thought.

“I’m your best friend,” she told him. “I’ll always understand.”

“Thank you,” he said. “I love you, Ally.”

“Love you, too.” She paused. “Bye.”

“Bye,” he said. Then he snickered. “Have fun at the prom. Bring me back a souvenir.”

“Such as?”

“A cheerleader.”

Alexcia felt ill.

“Will do,” she laughed. “Bye.”

In her bedroom, she sat on the floor and stared dully at the pink satin dress hanging on her closet door. I hate him, she thought. That worthless shit. She was furious, and her fury touched down on anyone she thought of: Adam for hurting her, herself for being hurt, Bonnie for making her go to the prom, Amy Haibalt for telling her to buy the stupid pink dress, Lizzy for letting her go with Adam the night before, AnthynnJ for giving her such a slutty hairdo. Everyone she knew seemed to have done something to lead her to her current miserable state.

She glanced over at her clock. Joshua Wright would be there to pick her up in half an hour. She had to get dressed.

She stood up and pulled the dress off its hanger. The heavy satin fell over her fingers, smooth and pink as roses.


Joshua White turned out to be exactly what she would have expected, from Adam’s description: handsome, well-dressed, and sporting a smile that was either lecherous or fake-sweet, depending on whether there were any parents around. He was charming, affable, and polite to Bonnie and Thomas, saying “yes, sir” and “no, ma’am”, and posing with a convincing grin for a series of photos. On the way to the prom, he was disinterested and friendly, and asked Alexcia questions about how many brothers and sisters she had and what subjects she liked in school. Maybe it’ll be alright, she thought. Maybe if he would stay like this, courteous and distant, she would be able to get through the night without hysterics. Maybe if she could just do what she was doing now- sit calmly and answer easy questions and seethe and hate Adam in peace.

The prom itself was a blur: a blur of people Alexcia didn’t like being nice to her, a blur of ugly formalwear, a blur of strobe lighting and Backstreet Boys songs. Alexcia felt like she was on pause: she felt nothing and thought nothing, and nothing seemed to be happening to her. At some point, late in the night, Joshua leaned over to her and asked her if she wanted to leave. She wanted nothing more in the world.

When they got into Joshua’s car, he didn’t start it right away, but sat looking at her. “You are so beautiful,” he said. It was obviously a line.

“Thanks,” Alexcia said tiredly.

Joshua leaned over and murmured something- she didn’t hear what, which was a pity because she was sure he had rehearsed it, and it seemed like such a waste- and then he kissed her. Her first impulse was to spit him out of her mouth, but she was suddenly overwhelmed. For all she remembered, she had come on to him, and she didn’t want him to think she was a tease. For all she knew, this was expected. She didn’t care. If this was part of the deal, fine, she’d do what she had to do and then she’d go home.

He tasted like beer- she didn’t even realize he’d been drinking- and he was a sloppy kisser. She couldn’t imagine that someone this inept could be such a player. One hand gripped her right breast and yanked, she wanted to laugh, it would be horrible to laugh, but he was so awful. She tried to pull away, but he made a horrible moaning noise, like a moose, moomph, and followed her, so she gave up.

After a minute he let her go. “Did you like that?” he whispered.

“Oh, yeah,” she murmured, turning away. Thinking of sad things, thinking of Bonnie, thinking of Adam, thinking of anything, Scott and his VD for God’s sake, to keep from laughing.

Suddenly, she felt a hand on the back of her head. Joshua was pulling her face down to his... Oh, God, his pants were already unzipped. Fine, she thought. Whatever. Whatever you want.

When he dropped her off at home two hours later, she waved goodbye and stumbled inside. “I don’t know why I did that,” she murmured to herself. “Oh, fuck it. I scored. Another step towards normal teenhood.”


In her bedroom, she looked at the clock: four a.m. She picked up the phone and dialed Adam’s number. After it rang once, she hung up.

She lay down on the bed, still in her pink dress. She didn’t feel like a whore or a ruined woman, she just felt gross. Joshua had been gross.

She was exhausted. She didn’t have the energy to get up and change, though she knew sleeping in her prom dress would ruin it. She shrugged to herself and curled up in a ball. Outside her window, the city was a blur of noises and lights. She could feel all the dirt of the city on herself, the dirt of a million people.

The phone rang, and she reached to grab it. “Hello?”

“Why’d you call?” It was Adam’s voice.

“Shit,” Alexcia burst out, crawling off the bed. “How’d you know?”

“Caller ID, dumbass. What’s wrong?”

Alexcia wanted to tell him, I just did something disgusting and sorry and I hate myself for it. I wanted it to be you, I wanted to pretend it was you, but in the end I couldn’t even do that.

“I just wanted to talk,” she said. “I didn’t realize how late it was until I’d already dialed.”

She heard an annoyed huff. “Well, you woke me up.”

She wanted to say, Good, you little bastard. Good. That’s about all I can do to you, isn’t it? After you broke my heart. After you knew you were breaking my heart. Thought I’d understand, my ass. You knew.

“I’m so sorry,” she said. “I honestly didn’t realize it was this late.”

“Hmmph,” he grunted. “Well. Anyway. Did you have fun at the prom?”

She wanted to tell him, No. No. It was horrible and it’s your fault it was horrible, it’s all your fault, you dog.

“It wasn’t any worse than I expected,” she said.

He laughed drowsily. “Well, look, I’m going back to bed. Let’s hang out tomorrow, okay?”

She wanted to say, No, let’s not. You’ve done an unforgivable thing and I’m not cool with it. I’m not your bitch, I’m not forgiving you. But she knew, really, that she already had. She knew that things would go back to how they had been: Adam aloof and mean and fascinating, Alexcia always breathless and bleeding for him and never telling, and taking all his shit, in the name of love.

“Yeah,” she said, “yeah. I’ll see you tomorrow.”

In the window, she caught her reflection: a phantom in a pink dress, a phantom princess with elaborately curled hair falling down around her face. She didn’t look like herself, which was fine: she was sick of herself. But she didn’t want to look like this other person, either.

“Good night,” Adam said.

“Good night,” Alexcia replied.

A moment later, she heard the click of him hanging up, and she stood still, transfixed by her image, breathing fast into the dead receiver.