We met in seventh grade, when you stole my girlfriend, Lisa. We were thirteen, and our teenage rebellion had combined with our childhood girl-crushes to form something intoxicating, half-earnest and half-pretend. It was the thing to do at Shawnee: best friends kissed each other in the hallways while teachers hovered on the edge of admonishment, confused as to when our kisses had moved from cheeks to lips.
Lisa had always been mine, in the way that eight- and nine- and ten-year-olds hold the entirety of each others’ lives, casually and without thought, in their hands. She and I had braided each other’s hair, healed each other’s cuts with Bugs Bunny band-aids, known each other’s bodies so intimately and matter-of-factly that moving from childhood touches to adolescent caresses had seemed only natural; forever had floated between us, its fragility unacknowledged, unknown. And then you came along, and Lisa wasn’t mine anymore.
I hated the way you flaunted her chapstick lipstains on your uniform collar—dykettes, as we called ourselves in our ignorance of actual lesbian culture, in our carelessness with the ownership of words, didn’t wear lip gloss. When you held her hand, I remembered the old ways I’d adored her fingers, the grain of her prints against my palms, and found new ways to hate your bitten-down, unpolished nails. Because of you—because of you and her together—I stopped kissing girls, which had seemed so much safer than kissing boys.
Alliances changed. By the time we were fifteen, Lisa had left us both behind for young men whose names hadn’t been part of our childhood. I wore too-sweet cherry gloss that melted into the lines of my lips; you wore polish that saved your nails from your teeth. I thought about Lisa sometimes when I held boys’ hands, the whorls of their fingerprints too rough against my skin. And I thought about you: their nails looked like yours had when we were thirteen, before other people had defined our womanhood for us.
When we were seventeen, Lisa stole my boyfriend. I cried over her loss, over the meaningless light in which our ex-girlfriend had cast our years of braids and band-aids, over the way she’d tailored our friendship into a dress that fit only her. You called her a slut, and when you put your hand, nails painted and gentle, against the waves of my hair, I knew that you remembered the days of chapstick and dykettes and seventh grade, even if she didn’t.
I started kissing girls again.
I started with you.
Rachael Warecki holds an MFA in Fiction from Antioch University Los Angeles. Her work has appeared in The Masters Review, The Los Angeles Review, and Midwestern Gothic, among other publications. Visit her website at www.rachaelwarecki.com.