8.

Bonnie crept into the house silently. All the rooms were dark. As she went into the kitchen she flipped on the lights. Then she froze. Jason was sitting at the counter. For a second, she just stared at him, her hand still on the light switch. She wasn’t used to running into him alone. Usually, he was on his way in or out, or one of their parents was hanging around making forced conversation.

Jason didn’t say anything. There was a plate in front of him with an untouched sandwich on it. She noticed that he was wearing a different shirt than earlier. His hair was damp and his cheeks were a little flushed, like he’d just gotten out of the shower. Bonnie ached to go over to him and touch his clean skin and smell his smooth freshness. I’ve kissed him. I haven’t kissed him.

“Are you just…sitting alone in the dark?” she finally managed to say.

“Not anymore,” he said coolly. “Now I’m sitting with you in the light.”

He was squinting at her. Bonnie couldn’t tell if it was from the sudden brightness, or if he was appraising her, searching her face for something. His attention made her want to scurry away, but she forced herself to stay put. She didn’t want to ruin the moment with her awkwardness, but she didn’t want to waste it, either. She opened the refrigerator and made a show of rummaging around.

“What are you looking for?” Jason asked.

“This,” Bonnie said, producing a jar of olives, the first thing she could find that wasn’t a condiment. Not looking at him, she unscrewed the cap and put one in her mouth. She chewed slowly, trying to think of something to say.

“You have something on your face.”

“Hm?”

“Your face. I think you have some juice on your face.”

Embarrassed, Bonnie bent down and looked at her reflection in the chrome toaster. There was a smudge of red running down her chin. But it didn’t look like juice. It looked like blood.

“Weird,” she said, wiping it off with her sleeve. The stranger must have bit her lip when they were kissing, but she didn’t feel a cut anywhere on her mouth. Maybe she’d bitten his lip, but hadn’t noticed in her passion.

“I’m going to bed,” Jason announced, picking up the sandwich plate.

“Goodnight,” Bonnie said.

He started to leave the kitchen, then stopped in the doorway. He was looking at the floor morosely. Then he asked, “Have you ever done something and then realized you could never take it back?”

Bonnie looked at him. What was he getting at? What did he want to hear? “Well…” she started, “can you really take anything back? Once you do something, it’s done. Big things and small things.”

Jason nodded, his face half in shadow. Then he disappeared into the dark hall.

9.

The next day was Saturday. In the afternoon, Bonnie walked back to The Baroness to stare at the dumpster and close her eyes and remember the feeling of kissing fake Jason. When she got there, she could immediately tell there was something wrong. The parking lot was empty, and the enormous willkommen sign wasn’t illuminated. She peered through the glass windows. The place looked like it had been abandoned overnight. Dirty dishes were scattered here and there on the tables, and a coat was slumped in one of the booths. Then she noticed a handwritten closed for business sign posted on the door.

“What the hell?” Bonnie said to no one. Places didn’t just close out of nowhere, did they? But it was like a great monstrous mouth had come and sucked the life from The Baroness doors and then left.

The second thing Bonnie noticed was a pair of police officers pacing around in the woods next to the dumpster. They walked with their heads down, like they were looking for something on the ground. Bonnie watched them for a while, making sure to stay out of sight. One of the officers had a yellow mustache. The other was saying something into a walkie-talkie. Bonnie started backing away. Suddenly the whole area seemed dirty and rotten and dangerous, and she had the awful feeling that it was somehow because of what she’d done.

10.

Without The Baroness to go to, Jason seemed lost and depressed. Soon, he and Amanda broke up. She’d been cheating on him with the senior class president, and told anyone who wanted to know that it was Jason’s fault—according to her, he was distant and hadn’t been fulfilling her emotional needs.

Bonnie, on the other hand, felt more fulfilled than she had in months. Her makeout session with the fake Jason left her with a loose, dazed feeling that made it easier to relax around the real Jason. The two of them started spending a lot of time together in the kitchen, making elaborate sandwiches and talking about how weird television was when they were kids—it turned out they’d had all the same favorite shows. Sometimes one of their parents would come in the kitchen and try to talk to them, but Bonnie and Jason would just ignore them, then make fun of them as soon as they were gone.

As the days went by, Jason gradually seemed less depressed. Bonnie wondered hopefully if it was her own buoyant energy that was bringing him back to life. He laughed more, looked her in the eyes more, and came up with weirder and weirder sandwich ideas, like “the shrimp cocktail,” or one that used frosting as a condiment.

The more time they spent together, the more the outside world seemed to grow dim. It stopped mattering. There was a big uproar over a kid from their school who had been found dead in the forest near The Baroness after Bonnie’s last night there, but the news barely penetrated the small bubble of their existence, and they never spoke about it.

Sometimes when Bonnie looked at Jason, she remembered the taste of blood in her mouth. Whose blood had it been? Her own? She didn’t care. Every second she was with him, Bonnie loved him more. But her love had changed: It was no longer the dark, tormenting love that felt like it was trying to kill her. It was just love—love that gave her the power to self-deceive, which was also the power to be happy. ♦