Warning: This chapter does have some sexual themes to it, applied to characters in a not-so-nice way. Please do not read this if it will be triggering for you or if this discomforts you.
“Are you sure that we should be playing this? I mean, what if someone got pressured into admitting something that they didn’t want to? We learned about peer pressure in school for a reason, you know,” Leticia says nervously.
“If you don’t want to play, I’m sure that you can go find something to play with one of Anne and Edward’s siblings,” Rory replies snarkily.
“Okay, fine, I won’t complain,” Leticia replied, glancing at me anxiously. I shake my head at her- it feels good being treated like I actually exist, and I’m not going to waste this opportunity, even if Leticia is one of my best friends.
“Who wants to go first?” Edward asks.
“I think we should do a practice round first.”
Everyone turns to Cassandra, surprised. She’s been pretty quiet the whole night. I’m not really sure what’s up with her, but if I make a good impression during this game Edward might tell me a bit more later.
“Yeah, um, I don’t really know how to play,” Alexander says sheepishly as he gazes at his girlfriend, who is standing next to him. We can all tell that it’s actually Rosalynn that doesn’t know how to play, but Alexander’s covering for her. Even though it’s really sweet of him to do that, I don’t think that I ever want to have a boyfriend who tries to protect me in that way. Edward and my parents do enough of that.
“Cool, so I’ll start. That way, the freshies will be last,” Rory replies.
We all nod in agreement.
“Never have I ever performed in a circus,” he says. We all laugh, and I can tell that this practice round is going to be utterly ridiculous.
“Never have I ever done drugs,” Cassandra says.
“Never have I ever been in a relationship for longer than a year,” Edward says.
“Never have I ever… um… played Don’t Wake the Llama,” I say, trying to keep from blushing.
“We’ll let that hesitation go this time since it’s a practice round, but do that in the real game and you’ll be out,” Edward warns us.
“Never have I ever ran away from home,” Leticia says. It somehow calms me down to know that she hasn’t actually done that, though I know that her home life is a bit more stressful that my own.
“Never have I ever gotten a piercing,” Lauryn says.
“Never have I ever gotten a tattoo,” Alexander says. His similar response to Lauryn’s shows that he also has trouble thinking of things quickly like this, so I’m a bit more relieved that I’m not the only one.
“Never have I ever cheated on a test,” Rosalynn says. Edward and Rory get a hoot out of that one, but they stop laughing once they see Cassandra’s glare.
“Okay, so let’s start the real thing. Whoever catches this gets to go first,” Edward says, tossing a piece of popcorn into the air. We all lunge for it and it’s Leticia that ends up grabbing it first. Edward or Rory probably would’ve gotten it if they hadn’t been trying to impress Cassandra by attempting to catch it in their mouths.
Leticia tosses the popcorn into her mouth, then starts the game. “Never have I ever kissed a boy.” Rosalynn’s obviously out since we saw her and Alexander making out earlier.
“Never have I ever shopped at a thrift store.” I’m surprised that Lauryn would say that, considering that Rory and Leticia’s family pretty much lives off of them, but then I realize that this game is a lot more ruthless than I thought it would be.
“Never have I ever started a book and not finished it.” I knew that Alexander would say something like that, considering the fact that the first time we met, all he wanted to talk about was books. Edward sits down.
“Never have I ever gone to public school,” Cassandra says confidently. Everyone’s down except for her brother, since this year will be his first.
“Never have I ever worn all black.” Alexander smirks, thinking that he’s gotten his sister out, but she surprises us all by taking off her shirt to reveal that she’s wearing a white bra. Alexander’s expression changes to one of worry.
“Never have I ever had a girlfriend,” Cassandra says, but we’re all too stunned from the fact that she took her shirt off to realize that she’s one.
“Plum! Edward, we don’t have a prize for the winner!” Rory exclaims sarcastically.
“Oh, yes we do,” Edward replies with a wink. “There’s some leftover birthday cake downstairs in the fridge that I could heat up for you.”
“Uh, no thanks,” Cassandra replies in disgust. “I think I’ll be heading home now, if Rory would be kind enough to take me.”
“Rosalynn and I should come with. She has work in the morning, and there’s no reason for me to stay here,” Alexander adds.
Rory nods. “You coming, Ticia?” he asks.
“I’ve told you several hundred times now to not call me that in public!” Leticia shouts. “And no, I’m not coming with.”
Rory escorts the three that are leaving out of the room, once Cassandra puts her shirt on. I’m still confused about what Cassandra found so disgusting about birthday cake when Lauryn whispers to me, “Check your texts.” I glance down at my phone and see that she’s sent me a link, and I discover something horrifying. I send the link to Leticia, who only replies, “At least we know the real meaning of that song we’ve been jamming to all summer.”
Edward interrupts us by saying, “Girls, if you don’t mind me asking, when are you going to get out of my room?”
I roll my eyes and lead my two best friends over to my room, where we realize that we have a bit of a dilemma: there’s not enough space for all three of us unless one of us can somehow manage to sleep under the bed.
“No way! I still have nightmares about monsters under there,” Lauryn replies when I explain what we’ll have to do.
“I guess I’ll brave the monsters,” Leticia replies. She attempts to crawl under the bed, but her head won’t fit.
“How about you try taking off your glasses?” I suggest, but she still doesn’t fit.
“Guys, how about we figure out a different solution,” Lauryn suggests, still nervous about the monsters.
“Don’t worry, I’ve never seen any monsters under there,” I tell her. “Leticia, how about you try letting your hair down? You’re only missing the clearance of the bed by about an inch.”
“You know I don’t like doing that,” she replies.
“Why don’t you ever have your hair down?” Lauryn asks.
“Because it looks stupid, okay?!” Leticia shouts, almost in tears. I reach towards her to give her a hug, but she pulls away.
“Why do you even want to touch me? My body’s just a disgusting mess.”
I eye Lauryn, knowing that Leticia’s not going to tell me what’s wrong while she’s in the room. “Lauryn, I’m guessing that you want to go wash that makeup off and get changed. Here’s some pj’s that you can wear,” I tell her, pulling a pair of pajamas out of my dresser. She heads to the bathroom and I make sure to close the door behind her. Then I turn back to Leticia, who’s sitting on my bed. She’s sobbing now, and I really don’t know what I can do for her.
I grab a Kleenex and sit down next to her, putting the tissue in her hand. She accepts it and starts blowing her nose. “Do you want to talk?” I ask her, and she nods. Once she’s done crying, she begins.
“I’ve never really liked Lauryn that much. She just acts so snarky sometimes. Plus, I’ve been jealous of you guys for a pretty long time now. You guys really don’t know how much money buys. If one of you wears a revealing shirt, you get called a young lady, but if I wear one I’m a slut.”
“No,” I interrupt. Now I’m the one who’s almost crying. It’s no wonder why she’s always been so tough- it’s because she has to be.
“That’s the nicest thing that people say to me. Every day, all I hear is that I’m not a “real woman” because my breasts aren’t very big and I’m more muscular than the people calling me that are. I’m a tomboy when I present as more masculine and ‘trying too hard’ when I present as more feminine. There’s no way out of the judgement, even in my own home. Sometimes all I want to do is run away, but then where would I go? There’s some places where people would accuse me of trying to steal their jobs after they see the color of my skin.”
“I am so, so sorry,” I tell her because I have no idea what else to say. Sometimes, the world is just to cruel for my taste. “I could try to maybe help you see yourself better, if you’d like.”
Leticia looks up at me, her green eyes only made of fear with a glimmer of hope. She lifts her hands up to her bun and lets her hair down.
I gasp. It’s just below her shoulders, wavy, and most of all- “Gorgeous,” I accidentally say out loud.