Dena waited. Sometimes she felt like she’d been waiting her whole life. Waiting to be tall enough that her feet touched the floor of the van when she sat. Smart enough that the sounds and syllables that issued from adult mouths made sense. Pretty enough that some boy, any boy would do, might notice that she was something besides a skinny, flat chested, pimply faced nobody. That last one, she suspected, would be the longest wait of all.
Now she was waiting for her best friend. Cassie was everything Dena was not. She moved with a lithe dancer’s grace, and when they walked the hallways eyes shifted and head’s turned. Dena liked to pretend they were looking at her, but she was smart enough to know when she was lying to herself.. She still felt like moron, most days, but even a moron can sometimes see the truth sometimes. The mean kids, the ones that had tortured her all through elementary school and junior high, had left off once Cassie’s approval had imbued her with her mantle of cool.
Dena looked at the scratched face of her Hello Kitty watch. Cassie was never late. Punctuality was kind of a thing with her. She was far more likely to show up an hour early than twenty minutes late. Dena felt her stomach sink. Cassie being late was like the earth spinning backwards on it’s axis, the sun setting in the east and about nine or ten other impossible things. It didn’t happen, ever, which meant that something was wrong. Dena leaned back against the concrete wall and tried not to chew on her nails. She sang 100 bottles of beer in her head. The two of them used to sing it aloud until the bus monitor had taken them aside and admonished the girls for singing about beer on school property.
She’d gotten to ten bottles, the sun was higher in the sky, her watch told her that it had been almost and hour. She should go. Get home, eat a hot pocket, watch some tv, and pretend like nothing was wrong. Call Cassie on the phone, get the scoop on what possibly could have kept her away. It would be funny, like the time the cheese factory had caught on fire and oozed processed orange slime down the highway. It would be a story they would laugh about later.
Dena got up, shrugged into her backpack. Cassie wasn’t coming. It was stupid, a waste of her entire Saturday waiting for something that wasn’t going to happen.
The sound of running feet. Dena paused, looked up, over the top of the retaining wall was her friend, breathless, her pink bangs hanging over her eyes, her spiked collar glinting in the midday sun sending little reflections bouncing off the shadowy underpass walls.
“Sorry,” she gasped. “I got hit by a car.”
Dena, looked up, puzzled. Cassie looked okay. She looked great, in fact, with rosy cheeks and freshly colored hair. The lie stung.
“If you didn’t want to hang out,” Dena said. “You could just say so. You don’t have to make shit up.”
“Don’t be like that.” She walked toward her, lifting her tattered, holey Metallica shirt. Cassie’s torso wasn’t really a torso anymore. It was more of a ragged, bloody gash where abdomen and navel used to be. Creamy skin turned crimson. Her belly button ring, a silver barbell, hung from a gobbet of dangling flesh. Her insides churned at the sight. She rubbed her eyes. She wanted to go to her friend but she couldn’t get her body to cooperate. She tried to say something but her voice had decided to go on vacation.
“I knew you’d be worried, so I got her as fast as I could.” Cassie said, her voice was getting softer, like a gentle breeze swaying dandelion heads. She held up a hand. Dena blinked, she could see the graffitied wall bleeding through where Cassie’s hand should have been.
Her friend shuffled over, swayed, grimaced and grabbed Dena’s shoulders and planted a wet kiss on her forehead. Her eyes closed, cherishing the feel of black lipstick imprinting on her skin. The day had been hot, still, but a cold brisk wind howled through the tunnel, making her arms prick with gooseflesh.
“Shit, Cass, did you feel that?” She opened her eyes. Cassie, if she had been there at all, was gone. She touched her forehead, fingers came away black.