Tonight we’re going to the mall to fall in love.

We walk out to the benches around the fountain and spot Carol and Gail. Even from two stores down, I can see Carol’s lost weight, and I’m instantly jealous. She was always a pudge like me. Then she had to go to the clinic for an abortion, and she threw up for two days after the anesthetic. It makes me wonder why no one sells anesthetic to fat people for a diet. I guess it’s against the law, but still it isn’t fair.

Two weeks before Carol went to the clinic, she told me about the moment down in the Pit when Scott Malone had finally got off her, and she had to squat and search for a full minute before she found the condom. But when I tried to put my arm around her, she said, “You smell like ham, Janine,” and pushed me away. I don’t care. Dawn is my best friend, anyway.

Dawn and me and Carol and Gail are sitting in front of the fountain waiting for babes. Gail is beautiful and goes out with Joey Cosmo, who has a roll bar in his truck and wild blond hair like a rock star. But he’s at some truck show in Garden City tonight, so Gail is a free agent.

I never told anyone, but I have a secret about Joey Cosmo. Once I walked by Sheer Impact, and I saw Joey sitting under a dryer with perm rods in his hair. It made me want him even more, seeing him with the plastic sheet over him, the white towel around his neck, and blue and yellow perm rods covering his head like a helmet. Any guy who thinks he ought to try and look good, even if he’s a babe already, has got to be sort of sweet. I wouldn’t cheat on him just because he went to a truck show without me, but I’m not beautiful like Gail, and the rules are different.

Tonight Gail has done her eyes in blue liner. Her hair is soft blond that curls at her shoulder, and she’s long and thin in pink cords and a black sweater that shows a beige bra under her arm when she lifts a hand to flip her hair back. It’s hard to believe we’re both girls. I’ve never come close to looking anything like her.

“What’s up?” she says, throwing her cigarette into the fountain. There’s a hiss as flame hits water.

“Nothing,” Dawn says.

“How you feeling?” I ask Carol.

She gives me a look. “I’m staying at Gail’s.”

“Janine’s staying at my house,” Dawn says.

“How come?” Gail asks, suddenly interested, thinking something’s up like I’m pregnant or something.

“My stepfather’s a skank,” I say quickly, feeling a moment’s pride being the center of attention.

“They’re all skanks,” Gail says. “My stepfather stole 10 bucks from my purse last week.”

Dawn’s elbow sinks into my side. “Babes,” she whispers. And there they are.

Three guys turning the corner from Monkey Ward’s. We lean back with our toes stretched out in high heels. I can feel the water spray against my back, but I don’t move. The waist of my jeans is like an iron band. I can hardly breathe.

Dawn stands. “Janine, let’s go.”

“We just sat down,” I say.

“Look at that babe in the red leather,” Dawn says. “He’s checking me out.”

“Can’t we just sit here a while?” I say.

“Janine, do you want to be a fat cow all your life?” Dawn says. “The blond one isn’t bad. He’s got long hair. Let’s go.”

We go after the babes. They strut around the corner of Camera Hut with long pink combs sticking out of their back pockets. Dawn’s right. I have to do something with my life.

We follow them down the north corridor of the mall. I watch the babe in the red leather. His thin hips jut back and forth in tight black denims. I feel myself slow and heavy at Dawn’s side.

They go into A&W, and Dawn clicks fast on high heels behind them. The two bomber jackets buy chili dogs, but the red leather buys fries. He turns as he squirts ketchup, and he has these unbelievable sea-green eyes. I feel a butterfly come alive in my stomach, and I could almost collapse with the feel of it coming over me. But I force myself to look at the blond one, like Dawn wants, even though he’s ugly.

“What’s up?” the babe asks, staring down at the floor. He smiles, and I see his teeth are white and clean like a commercial. He has dyed black hair with brown roots.

“Nothing,” Dawn says, moving in. I try and give the blond one a look, but he’s worse close up. His hair is long but hangs flat against the sides of his face, and his body is round and square like Barney Rubble’s. I feel myself rolling loose, bursting against my jeans, and I can see from his face that I’m just as unappealing to him. I manage a weak smile.

They slide into a booth with their food, throwing fries at each other across the table. We order cheese fries and sit across from them. We suck cheese off the fries and then put them back on the plate, waiting. I suck only five fries. Dawn sucks down practically the whole plate. She can. She’s already thrown up twice since breakfast.

Finally the babe finishes his food and looks across the table at Dawn. “Hey,” the babe says.

“Hey,” Dawn says.

“What’s up?” he says.

“Nothing,” she says.

“You want to hang out?”

“Sure,” she says. “I’m Dawn. This is Janine.”

“Hey,” he says, looking my way for the briefest moment. He’s a definite babe. Tall and thin with hollow cheeks and a square chin.

“Listen,” Dawn says, leaning in toward the babe. She gives a look– perfect, all eyes and lips. “Janine was checking out your friend,” she whispers. “The blond guy. She’s in love with him or something.”

“That’s Stevie,” the babe says. “He’s cool.”

The babe stands, pressing his hips into the edge of the table. Dawn’s fingers stroke the tabletop. Her nails, hard pink shells, click against the tabletop. “Cool,” she whispers. She stands, brushing against the babe as she pulls out of the booth. There’s the sizzle of fabric against fabric. “We’ll meet you by Macy’s,” she says, and struts fast out of A&W, heading back towards the Sears bathroom. I follow, running to keep up.


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  • MikaylaT May 3rd, 2013 3:32 PM

    Wow..this story was

  • limegreensunset May 3rd, 2013 3:36 PM

    i love this.

  • abby111039 May 3rd, 2013 4:27 PM

    This was beautiful. It certainly hit home for me. Well done.

  • jenaimarley May 3rd, 2013 4:28 PM

    This makes me so sad!

  • elliecp May 3rd, 2013 4:36 PM

    Wow. That was so powerful, and relatable. I started reading and just couldn’t stop…there should be more stories about reality like this out there.

  • Hibawot May 3rd, 2013 4:42 PM

    Oh wow..this blog is always my favorite source of intellect and entertainment. Go guys! :)

  • Saana V May 3rd, 2013 4:50 PM

    It’s sad to think that i was kinda in her place just few months back. It wasn’t that bad tho, my “dawn” wasn’t such a bitch but we were on a never ending diet and she knew how to throw up – i didn’t. I ended our friendship after realizing how much shit she had caused to me. It’s better now.

  • Xtina May 3rd, 2013 6:46 PM

    This is my absolute favorite short story ever and I am so happy to see it on Rookie!!! If you guys are interested in reading more stories like it, it is from a book called “Evil” by Rennie Sparks. I ordered it from Amazon- it seems like its not really in print anymore and I’m pretty sure it was sent to me by the author herself!

  • MabelEnchanted May 3rd, 2013 6:49 PM

    Once I started reading I couldn’t stop…so amazing.

  • catpower44 May 3rd, 2013 7:27 PM

    This is an amazing story. I love your writing! This is so sad, but I still love it very much. I cannot relate to the characters, but it was still amazing.

  • K8 is Gr8 May 3rd, 2013 8:54 PM

    Wow… That left me speechless. I thought it was going to have a happy ending, but it didn’t…

  • onewithahippiesmile May 3rd, 2013 10:09 PM

    i really loved it, beautiful story, good text, i like the irony on it. thats inspiring stuff, made me wanna make a movie with that! just amazing xxxxx

  • peanutbutter May 3rd, 2013 11:28 PM

    So painful to read.

  • Tallulah May 4th, 2013 2:05 AM

    This is so sad, towns and friendships like that kinda make me feel claustrophobic

  • Nomali May 4th, 2013 6:14 AM

    Oh wow.

  • neenbean May 4th, 2013 1:26 PM

    This was fantastic, incredible writing. When I went through my eating disorder it was all on my own, I had no girls like Dawn around me to push me to keep going… I don’t know how I would have turned out if that was the case.

    I remember girls like her though in high school. They never end up doing much with their lives or drop out early.

    I feel like this story could easily be turned into a film, or a piece of longer fiction. It’s really impressive, painful, beautiful. <3

  • MaggieMae May 4th, 2013 3:25 PM

    Wow! So many wonderful stories have been posted lately, awesome job Rookie writers! Please continue with with awesomeness!

  • unicornconnect May 4th, 2013 7:38 PM

    Wow, this makes me really really sad.

  • jill May 5th, 2013 1:45 AM

    tragic story. their friendship kind of reminds me of the movie “13″

  • I W May 5th, 2013 3:35 PM

    This is beautiful. I need to read more by this author! So tragic and so rooted in the mundane at the same time.

  • sunshine May 6th, 2013 10:49 AM

    this is so magical and beautiful

  • Jes June 9th, 2013 3:07 PM

    I love it.

  • Hailey Mah June 22nd, 2013 4:23 PM

    All I can say is…wow. This story was so moving, realistic and devastating. I can tell that it’s going to follow me around all day.