Susannah didn’t tell anyone she was going over to his house. Not Alyssa, and certainly not Morgan. They wouldn’t have liked it. There would have been endless questions that she didn’t have the answer to, so why give them the opportunity to ask? She would let the day play out, and if anything needed to be discussed afterward, she would deal with it then.
It was deep into July in her last summer before high school and the city had become slow with stickiness. Her neighborhood was buzzing, in the soft way her friends did after getting high. There were smiles, loud laughs, but everything was a little bit dazed. People were sunbathing on stoops and covering their backyards in smoke from barbeques. The apartment buildings on the corner never turned off the tap on their sound systems, the genre changed depending on who was in control, but music poured out of open windows at all hours.
She’d rolled the collection of old faux-Persian rugs up that usually covered the tile floor of the basement apartment she lived in with her mom, and shoved them against the wall. She was only glad to live below the ground level when it got this hot. The floor tiles reminded her of large smooth stones at the bottom of a stream, they were soft and cold no matter the weather. Now, as she rummaged through her closet for a possible outfit to wear today, she found them to be a comfort. She settled on a black floral dress she’d bought with her babysitting money at Beacon’s. It was possibly too short, but she wouldn’t be too warm, and she thought she’d fit in at SirenFest.
She’d never been on a date before. She wasn’t sure this was one, so maybe that would still be true later tonight. But this was certainly the closest she’d come. She would first be going to Dan’s house in Brooklyn Heights, a neighborhood that became like a stagnant pool every summer between July 4th and Labor Day when everyone in their stoic brownstones fled to bigger houses surrounded by crisper air. And then, together, she and Dan would go to SirenFest out in Coney Island. Of course, she lived about twenty minutes from Coney Island, and about thirty minutes in the other direction from the Heights, but he’d promised to smoke her up. And Brooklyn Heights people always thought they were at the center of the universe. She doubted it had even occurred to him that it wouldn’t be convenient for her.
Susannah’s friends, those that also lived in the Heights like Alyssa and Morgan, had all gone away with their parents to beachside homes or to summer camps where they couldn’t go online, or talk on the phone, and would return from in August and report an entirely different reality to the uninitiated Susannah.
Susannah didn’t know why Dan wasn’t in one of those locations. Instead, he told her over their Facebook messages, that he was spending the summer alone in his mother’s brownstone. His father, who lived in the city, would be checking on him occasionally. But he was eighteen, and about to be a Freshman at Carnegie Mellon, so it didn’t really matter. He was more than capable of being left alone.
He’d messaged her after seeing a picture of her at work, wearing her bright green Montessori Day Camp staff shirt and said since they were both in the city for the summer, they should hang out sometime. Susannah knew lots of people who were in the city for the summer, but she still said yes.
Susannah and Dan had hung out exactly once before, a few months ago, when she was still in 8th grade. That night, the three girls all piled into the bottom bunk of Alyssa’s full-sized bunk bed. They sat with their legs extended and their backs against the wall. Each had a computer on their laps, slowly making their upper thighs sticky with sweat as the hours ticked by. Alyssa was in the center, mouse skimming over other people’s pages and photos on Facebook. She’d occasionally turn her computer to Susannah, showing her girls in grades above them––girls who were already in high school––and the things they posted of themselves that very same Friday night. They were not piled in a bunk bed, crammed tightly into a row of three. They were out.
Morgan’s fingers moved like no others Susannah knew. They reminded her of a centipede’s legs, moving together so fast they became invisible. Because of this, Morgan’s computer made sounds Susannah and Alyssa’s were unable to. For Susannah, it was like watching their orchestra teacher play the piece they had all spent the past hour trying to squeak out: a sudden awareness that music could be made from the little black markings on the page in front of her, that it wasn’t just nonsense. Morgan reached those same heights on her MacBook.
Morgan never showed her laptop to anyone else. She didn’t smile, laugh, or stop typing long enough to give anything away. Susannah knew she was talking to boys, and that they were all in high school. Morgan would call them her friends, and sometimes she’d share a shred of information about one of them, but no one else really knew what was being tapped out late into the night on AIM.
“Wait. You guys,” Morgan suddenly said, her fingers never stilling, “Do you want to meet Rob in the park with me?”
“What?” Alyssa said. “It’s eleven o’clock. We can’t leave.”
“I’m gonna go, you guys stay if you want. Rob just wants to see me for a sec,” Morgan still hadn’t looked back at the other two girls.
Susannah wondered about Rob and Morgan. She wondered how Morgan got any of the boys to talk to her, and how she kept their interest. Susannah knew Morgan’s life was as uninteresting as her own, here they were, in the same bunkbed. But Morgan had told Susannah and Alyssa about August, who was in the 10th grade, and how his dad tried to toughen him up by turning off the heat in the dead of winter, and Mikey, who was only in the 9th grade, and how he was having a hard time making friends and had just started cutting himself, and Rob, who was in the 11th grade, and lived in Staten Island which opened him up to ridicule in the eyes of everyone at school. Even Susannah was surprised Morgan would talk to someone from Staten Island, but Rob seemed to be the favorite of her collection.
Susannah knew enough to know that there was an aura of desperation around all of the high school boys Morgan talked to online. They were outcasts. They were sad and lonely, and wanted a secret confidant. It was just surprising that Morgan was that for all of them. That they didn’t mind sharing her.
“You can’t just go!” Alyssa said, closing her laptop.
Susannah closed her laptop too. There was nothing worth looking on it anyway.
“Your parents are asleep. I’m going to the park like three blocks away. I’ll be back in like twenty minutes,” Morgan hit the space bar loudly, and then finally joined the others in closing her laptop. It kept humming, like a little kitten purring on her lap.
“It’s not safe!” Alyssa’s voice went up an octave. She looked between Susannah and Morgan.
“Maybe we should go with her,” Susannah said.
Alyssa turned to her so quickly, Susannah was surprised she didn’t twist a muscle in her neck. “What!” she whispered to Susannah, raising her eyebrows in a heated attempt to convey her feelings of betrayal. She turned back to Morgan before Susannah had a chance to respond, “What is Rob even doing here? He lives in Staten Island!”
“He’s staying at his friend Dan’s house for the night,” Morgan got up off the bunkbed, forcing the other two girls to shift as she did.
“What Dan?” Alyssa asked.
Susannah moved to edge of the bed, watching Morgan change back out of her pajamas. She hooked herself back into her bra, and slipped her jeans over her legs. She did it all effortlessly, like a woman in a movie would get dressed. Like she didn’t mind if she was on camera, or if anyone was watching.
“He’s in Rob’s grade,” Morgan said, which Susannah knew wasn’t really the answer Alyssa was looking for, but it was the one that mattered to Morgan. She pulled her shoulder-length black hair into a ponytail and pouted quickly to the mirror.
“You really want to go?” Alyssa asked Susannah.
She nodded, and picked her jeans up off the floor. She’d put her pajamas on in the bathroom, but decided to at least try not to be weird, so she slipped them off in full view.
Susannah had never kissed anyone. She wondered if going to high school unkissed was how Dan felt going to college a virgin, which Morgan had told her he was. If so, she sympathized. She had a pit of humiliation bubbling, ready to devour her whenever she inevitably had her first kiss and did it wrong. She’d tried to study by watching porn, but there wasn’t much there to help her. She thought it would helpful for when she wanted to learn how to give a blowjob, but that also seemed more obvious, and less intimate. She wouldn’t have to worry about her breath or have someone’s face so close to hers.
Susannah checked her phone for the text Dan sent with his address, 85 Joralemon, even though she absolutely had it memorized. Their school’s address was 170 Joralemon, so she knew it would only be a few blocks away from Court Street and deep into the quiet of the brownstone lined blocks of the Heights. The shade felt heavy as she walked under the old growth trees. Goosebumps shot across her arms.
She had hoped his house would have a single imperfection. There were some brownstones that had their grand staircases removed when they were transformed into apartment buildings in the 70s, Susannah’s mom had always said they did that because class consciousness was on the rise and the people of the era found the idea of a “servant’s entrance” distasteful. But she doubted that was the real reason. Class consciousness could have never found its way to the wide streets of Brooklyn Heights, this was where class stopped existing, and everything was bountiful.
But, in any case, Dan’s was not one of those. The steps were round and whole. There were other house’s whose façades were cracking and had been patched up over the years with concrete and brown paint, but Dan’s façade glimmered with wholeness. Even his garbage cans were tucked away in a discrete cast iron box in the corner of the front yard, there was no garish blue plastic to be found here. It was the most elegant house on the block. Susannah wished she hadn’t worn flipflops.
She opened the gate, walked up the stairs, and rang the single, unlabeled chrome doorbell.
She waited. She looked at her phone. Should she text? Should she ring again?
She felt the man across the street walking his dog look at her, she saw him in the reflection of the glass in the old oak double doors. Had he seen her flipflops?
Finally, Dan swung the reflection open. He was slightly flushed, shorter than Susannah remembered, and wearing a green Lacoste polo with then yellow stripes. She blinked in surprise. They didn’t look like a matching set.
“Hi,” he said, and stepped aside. His house was the crisp kind of cool that came from central air. “Sorry it took me so long to answer, my room is on the top floor.”
“No worries,” Susannah said.
She saw he had cargo shorts and socks on. She kicked her flipflops off and placed them next to a neat line of shoes. Even though the soles of her feet were probably dirty, and his hall was covered in cream carpet. She hoped he wouldn’t notice any tracks she left. Still, it would be better than having to be reminded to remove her shoes.
“My room is up this way,” he said, starting back up the stairs. Susannah saw a formal living room to the left of the hall. She’d been to friend’s houses who had them before, even Morgan’s did, but she’d never actually sat on any of the furniture.
Quietly, she followed him up the stairs. The oak banister shined, she didn’t see a single spot of dust or fingerprint. She thought he might try to kiss her today, and her palms began to clam up. She’d imagined her first kiss would probably be like most of her friends’ were, at a party during spin the bottle or some other stupid game. She didn’t think it would be at a boy’s house alone and on their bed.
Susannah knew Morgan would be mad if anything happened between her and Dan. She had said they never hooked up, but she said that about all the boys she talked to, and that just couldn’t be the case. There was a possibility, Susannah hoped that if anything did happen, Dan wouldn’t tell Morgan. That they’d be able to keep it just between them. Morgan wouldn’t have to know. Susannah would never tell her. Susannah would even be willing to never tell Alyssa, the best friend she and Morgan shared, so that she wouldn’t have to talk about it with Morgan. But Dan might say something. For all Susannah knew, inviting her over might have been a ploy to make Morgan jealous.
They finally arrived at the top floor. She looked up at an enormous skylight. Dan opened a door at the end of the hall. She followed him inside. It looked like a guest room on a TV set. The walls were beige, the same color that covered the halls outside. The carpet matched them too. There was a full-sized bed, neatly made with a chiffon yellow bedspread in the corner of the room, a large pine armoire and a matching desk. There was nothing on the walls.
“I have something to show you,” he said as soon as he closed the door to his room. He was sweating, even through the air-conditioning. Susannah wondered if he’d already been smoking, but she didn’t smell any weed.
“Okay,” she said. It was quiet between them, and quiet in the empty house.
He opened his armoire, mussed up a stack of neatly folded polos, and pulled out a baggy. He held it his palms, like he was cupping water, like whatever was inside was precious. He raised his eyebrows at her, and she stepped closer. It was a bag of dried mushrooms, crinkly and stiff.
“Have you done these before?” he asked.
Susannah shook her head. She didn’t realize shrooms looked just like the dehydrated mushrooms her mom made her special pasta sauce with.
“Are you game?”
She nodded. She didn’t even have to think about it. Shrooms would kill her nerves better than weed could, and she didn’t think she’d be able to breathe until she got the buzzing out of her body. She knew they were expensive, but since he said he would smoke her up before they went, she decided to not offer him any money.
“Cool,” he said. And then poured the bag out into his hand. He started separating them into two piles. “It’ll probably take a little while to hit us. We’ll just be getting to the concert.”
“Perfect,” she said, but worried about the long F train ride out to Coney Island sober.
She popped all that he gave her into her mouth. They were dry. It felt like eating Styrofoam. He smiled as he watched her, and then grabbed an old water bottle from beside his bed.
Morgan walked two steps ahead of them on the way to the park. It had taken more cajoling of Alyssa than even Susannah had expected to get them here. She suspected Alyssa was just coming along because she wanted to keep an eye out for Morgan, as though she could protect her somehow.
The park was dark, just a smattering of trees and shapes all stained in navy. This wasn’t a park Susannah had gone to when she was little, she hadn’t started coming to the Heights until Middle School. But she’d walked by it, and she knew that the large shadowed structure the two boys were hunched onto was a giant steel spider, with legs made of ladders for children to climb on.
Dan was smaller than Rob, and less friendly. Susannah and Alyssa had both met Rob before, he’d walked Morgan places and could chat pleasantly with anyone. He’d even taken to giving Susannah a small smile when they passed in the halls, something she took to mean that they were on the border of being friends.
They only stayed at the park for twenty minutes, not much longer than Morgan said they would. Beyond the initial hellos, only Rob and Morgan spoke. Alyssa and Susannah exchanged the occasional glance. Dan leaned on the spider’s legs.
Dan had looked up the route before they left. He said it would be faster if they got off at West 8th street, instead of at the Coney Island station, that the stages were actually closer to the Aquarium. Susannah had no reason not to believe him, but she still didn’t believe him. In all her life, she’d never gotten off at the Aquarium. Besides, she thought that there might be people who would point them in the right direction, or even signs, if they got off at the last stop. But she didn’t have the words to say that anymore. The world had started sparkling around King’s Highway, when the train emerged from the tunnel and decided to stay outside, basking in the sun, for the rest of their trip. All she could do was look at how the pores on Dan’s face kept sputtering out sweat, and no matter how much he tried to wipe it away it would come back, shining and dancing along his pink skin.
When they got out of the train, Dan took Susannah’s hand, leading her down the ancient iron staircases. She let him. She thought maybe she was dawdling, but she’d never noticed how fuzzy rust looked before, and she wanted to watch it grab at more of the metal and expand outward.
Dan started walking them under the train tracks, and out towards the tall brick buildings across the avenue.
“The beach is the other way,” Susannah said. She knew, suddenly, that Dan had not been to this part of Brooklyn since he was a small boy, if at all.
“I can hear people this way,” Dan said, as their palms slid against each other. Sweat pouring against sweat. They were made of salt water, and they should be heading for salt water. She could sense it behind them. Couldn’t he? He started across when the red hand disappeared.
Susannah stood still. She shook her head.
“You have to cross!” he said, losing hold of her.
“It’s the other way.”
Dan looked afraid, like he hadn’t expected this of her. She was only a few steps off the curb, so she didn’t know why she was scaring him.
“How do you know?” He asked.
“You always walk away from the buildings when you get out at Coney Island, away from the buildings is towards the beach.”
“You said you’d never been to SirenFest,” Dan words were coming out faster than Susannah could catch them.
“Hey!” A man called to them from down the block, he was walking with a woman. Both of them we wearing cutoff jean shorts. Both of them had arms full of tattoos. “You guys headed to the show?”
Susannah nodded before Dan could answer. The man reminded her of her Math teacher, the one who wore hoodies over his button downs and would never tell on anyone for smoking during lunch breaks. She felt Dan’s hand slip back into hers. “You know how to get there?” She asked.
“Yeah,” the man answered, “You guys can follow us. Did y’all come down yesterday too?” He had a tall boy in one hand.
“No,” Dan said. “We haven’t been here before.”
They started talking about the bands that were playing today versus the bands that played yesterday. Susannah was surprised Dan knew any of the bands, but he didn’t seem to be making any missteps. He kept the man nodding along. She didn’t know anything about any of the bands who were playing, so let her mind drift off, looking at the sun, and then at the purple rings it made in her eyes.
“How old are you guys?” The guy asked.
“Fourteen,” Susannah said.
“Eighteen,” Dan answered at the same time as her, and she thought maybe he meant to speak for them both.
“Oh, is that, like, legal?” The man asked. Susannah looked for the woman who was with them, but she wasn’t there anymore. She finally spotted her, walking a half block ahead, moving quickly through the increasing crowds.
Dan was quiet.
“Oh, it doesn’t matter,” Susannah said, embarrassed that he thought they might be having sex.
The guy nodded, “I thought you were way older,” he said, looking at her. People said that all the time. Susannah wouldn’t have been surprised if the man had thought she looked older than Dan did in his polo.
“Where did your girlfriend go?” Susannah asked.
“She’s just like that. She gets mad when I talk to people, try to make new friends. It wasn’t you. Don’t worry about her.”
The crowds were starting to multiply. The streets were becoming phlegmy with people. They all looked like the man, and some of them looked like Susannah. None of them looked like Dan. He looked small as the lone polo.
“You’re heading to West Stage, right?” the man asked Dan.
Dan nodded, “Yeah.”
“So straight past the Cyclone and then wrap around the Ferris wheel,” He pointed, slightly lowering himself to be eye level with Dan as he did.
“Thanks, man,” Dan said, dropping Susannah’s hand to shake the man’s, who pulled him into a hug. Susannah didn’t know when they had become so close. Then the man slipped her body into a hug as well. He held her tightly to him, and for a second, she was lost, unsure who’s skin belonged to whom.
When they entered the park to swing around, as they’d been told to do, Susannah was glad that Dan was holding her hand. She suddenly didn’t want to be alone here. Bodies were moving past them, pushing in every direction. The smell of sweat was so strong it masked the salt air and fried food smells that usually floated further than the park itself. She was sure all the bodies were increasing the humidity, she felt like she wasn’t getting enough air.
“Where are we going?” She asked Dan.
“Wherever you want,” he responded, but then he let go of her hand, moved behind her, and twisted her shoulders toward the Wonder Wheel. He placed a forearm across her collarbones from behind, and the weight of it made Susannah feel like she couldn’t breathe. Then he pointed up with his other arm, “I just want to be on that at sunset,” he said, his breath hot in her ear, his stomach brushing up against her back.
Susannah was suddenly sure that Dan meant to kiss her on the Ferris wheel at sunset, and she thought it was desperately lame. A cliché she didn’t want to be wrapped in. She would not be there at sunset, she decided. There was no way. Unless…she remembered Morgan and Rob sitting on top of the metal spider at the park all those months ago, and wondered if she’d could sit up there with them if only she had Dan by her side. The spider loomed in her periphery; she could almost see its long, black legs climbing towards her amongst the pulsing crowd.
She bolted for the beach, darting around sweaty bodies and beards darted with gray, only breathing once her feet hit the sand. Susannah didn’t want to be anywhere else. The waves were a dark briny green, like they always were at Coney Island. A plastic bag, yellowed by the sea, was being churned in the breaking waves. It was being pushed and pulled between the inhales and the exhales of the earth.
When Dan caught up to her, he said didn’t want to go swimming, so she could only imagine the water against her skin, the salt singeing against her bitten cuticles and scraped knees, the waves lifting her up, the sun pooling on her cheekbones and forehead. Dan was talking, but she wanted to be listening to the sea. She could tell, even though he only existed on the outskirts of her mind, that he wasn’t having fun. He was thirsty, he kept saying, not a beach person, he told her, he was worried about his already tanned skin burning, he said again and again.
She wanted him to quiet, so she asked a question she thought might lead them in a different direction. She kept her eyes on the water, not wanting to see his pores erupting. “Did you want to go on the Wonder Wheel so you could kiss me?”
Dan nodded, and then leaned forward.
“Did Morgan say if the guys said anything about us?” Susannah asked Alyssa the Friday after they went to the park, as soon as the door to Alyssa’s room closed. Morgan was in Massachusetts visiting her grandparents, so she wasn’t sleeping over. Susannah and Morgan talked. It wasn’t that they didn’t talk. They had Algebra without Alyssa and they always sat together, and would whisper about the teacher or other people, but they didn’t share secrets. Alyssa would have heard things Susannah wouldn’t have.
“Yeah,” Alyssa said, opening her backpack and pulling out her laptop. “Do you wanna watch the OC?”
“What did they say?” Susannah sat herself down on Alyssa’s bed, and made no move for her laptop.
She’d been thinking about the previous Friday night nonstop, but she didn’t want Morgan to think she cared at all about meeting her older guy friends, so had said nothing about it until now.
“Don’t you think it was a little weird?” Alyssa said.
“No. Well, yeah. But just like, why would those boys be into hanging out with us?”
“They’re not,” Susannah laughed. “They’re into hanging out with Morgan.”
“I don’t know. They both told Morgan that you’d be hot when you’re older.”
“Really?” Susannah didn’t want to sound too excited. She was supposed to be nonchalant. She was supposed to not care. “But I’m not hot now?” She snuck a look in the mirror. She wasn’t considered one of the hot girls in the grade. But maybe Dan and Rob knew something about her that the boys in her grade didn’t. Her hair was longer, wavier, and shinier than Morgan’s. Her boobs were bigger.
“Dan said you were beautiful,” Alyssa wasn’t looking at her, her head was bent over her laptop, pulling up the latest episode of the OC on megavideo.
“Really?” Susannah said.
“Yeah,” she started the episode, and let the theme song play for a few seconds and then paused it. “I think it’s weird.”
“Do Dan and Morgan talk now?”
“Yeah I guess so, she messaged him after last Friday.”
“Do you think he likes her now?”
“I don’t know. She says they’re friends.”
“Did they say anything about you?”
“Morgan didn’t tell me anything.”
Susannah guessed Morgan would have told her if they said anything nice, if they thought she was hot or pretty. But Susannah knew that they probably wouldn’t have said that about Alyssa. Boys in their grade didn’t have much to say about Susannah, but they said mean things about Alyssa. Maybe Dan and Rob had said the same things.
Susannah leaned her head on Alyssa’s shoulder. She wouldn’t ask more about it. They were still in the same boat. They both had never been kissed. They would both go to high school that way. Neither of them were like Morgan, who could grab for and then reach places they couldn’t even imagine.
The next day her brain was fine. Totally normal, even. She expected the world would still be swimming, and the light would still be golden, or that she’d at least have a headache. She remembered in health class learning about how every time you took ecstasy it was like taking a melon scooper to your brain and scooping out functioning sections. There had been an animated video the health teacher put up of a brain all lit up with firing synapses going dark after being on drugs, the video said it was like sections of an electrical grid after a blackout, but that they’d never be able to come back on. Susannah supposed shrooms must not be as bad. Her brain felt whole.
She was awake before her mom had expected her to be. This, much to her surprise, didn’t amount to her mom being happy with her, but instead the additional chore of vacuuming the apartment while her mom went to the laundromat. It was when the apartment was empty, when it was just her and the vacuum against the sun-soaked dust, that her mind started racing.
She had to tell Alyssa about the kiss. The kisses. His mouth pushed against hers. The coarse sand his hands patted into her hair as he held her head. About when they stopped kissing and lay back in the sand together and how her she wanted to dissolve into the beach, to be washed out to sea, made back into atoms by the power of the water. The whole weird day was something she should report to her best friend. Alyssa was owed the knowledge. She wouldn’t like it, she might even recount the melon baller anecdote, but Susannah knew that to be a true friend, she had to tell her. There weren’t supposed to be secrets between them.
Alyssa was reachable, she was only out in the Hamptons, trying to tan her pale skin next to her family’s pool. Susannah had visited her for a weekend earlier in the summer, and would visit her again after camp was out of session. Her family had a house close to town, and they had to pile into her dad’s vintage Mercedes Benz and drive fifteen minutes to go to the public beach. Alyssa always talked about the people further into the island, where there were no public beaches, where the mansions ballooned until they seemed ridiculous, as if they were otherworldly––an alien race just out of touch. She would say they had “real money.” But to Susannah, Alyssa’s family’s money seemed just as solid and substantial.
But despite Alyssa only being a message away, Susannah didn’t call. She finished vacuuming and started again. She moved the furniture and vacuumed under it. Even her mom never did this, and the dust bunnies that had been living under the couch had grown plump. Susannah wasn’t doing this for extra credit with her mom, her mom would never even notice, there was just something necessary at the moment about having a simple task. She needed her hands to keep moving.
What if Dan had already told Morgan?
What if he got home that night, and wrote out every stupid thing Susannah had said?
What if called and told her she was a bad kisser?
A worse thought drifted through Susannah’s mind, the worst one yet, one that was completely unacceptable: What if Morgan told Alyssa and Alyssa got mad about the drugs or the kissing and didn’t want to her friend anymore? What if she had to go into high school without her by her side?
Her palms felt sweaty. She wished she had something to do tonight, somewhere to go. Someone to get fucked up with. She texted Dan, “Hi,” and then dropped her phone. Then she picked it up and turned it off. She was being very stupid.
She helped her mom fold the laundry when she got home. They quietly chatted in a way she could tell was making her mom happy. She probably thought they were bonding. Susannah kept the illusion alive. Then the landline rung.
She prayed it was spam. Or a friend of her mom’s. But as soon as she saw her mom’s face across the room, the little pleasant smile she put on, she knew who it was. She walked over, and extended her hand. No use putting off the inevitable.
“Hi,” Alyssa said, and with that one word, Susannah knew she was in trouble. “Can you go to the garden or something?” That’s where Susannah usually talked on the phone to be away from her mom.
“Yeah. One sec.” She stepped outside, breathing heavily into the receiver. “Okay,” she said, sitting down on the rusted metal bistro chair that she was pretty sure had been in the garden longer than her and her mom lived in the apartment.
“Your mom’s inside?” Alyssa asked.
“Yeah, she can’t hear.”
“Did you do shrooms with Daniel Mitchem yesterday? At Coney Island? Just the two of you?”
“Yeah,” Susannah answered. She wanted to say more, she wanted to explain herself, but she thought she might cry if she said anything else.
“What? Are you kidding me? I thought it was a lie! Why didn’t you tell me?”
“I was going to.”
“When we next talked. I was going to call you today.”
“It’s two o’clock.”
“I woke up late.”
“I can’t believe this. Morgan said he thinks he really likes you. Do you like him?”
Susannah felt dread spread across her body. “I don’t know.”
“You just like made out with him all day and did drugs with him but don’t know if you like him?”
“Yeah, I mean, I don’t know.”
“It’s a little weird, Suze, don’t you think?” Alyssa dropped her voice to a whisper.
“He’s gonna go to college next year.”
“Shrooms are really serious.”
“I know.” She thought back to the melon baller.
“Well, was it fun at least?”
Susannah wanted to tell her that the drugs were fun, but that Dan wasn’t. But she knew that wasn’t the right answer. “It was weird. I won’t do it again.”
“Yeah,” Alyssa said, “That’s probably for the best, right? I mean, I guess it’ll just be a weird thing that happened. I won’t tell anyone.”
“Okay. Morgan told you?”
“Yeah. I guess Dan told her everything last night, but don’t worry she don’t tell anyone. You know she’s good with secrets.”
“I thought she was at camp?”
“Oh no, she’s done with camp. Now she’s doing that sailing intensive up in Maine? But it’s just a day thing so she has her laptop.”
“Oh,” Susannah thought this was the worst news of all. She was humiliated that she didn’t know where Morgan even was, that Dan was closer to her than she was.
After her call, she turned on her phone. There was no reason to keep it turned off anymore, everything had already been found out. She had two messages. The first one was from Dan, responding to her message from earlier: “Do you want to come over?”
She had no idea if she wanted to. They didn’t have much to say to each other, but maybe he’d smoke her up for real this time. Whatever happened, it wouldn’t be worse than sitting at home sober obsessing about if Alyssa thought she was crazy or not.
The second message was from Morgan: “Lol I can’t believe you. Call me.”
They had never spoken on the phone. Not just the two of them.
The phone suddenly felt light. Another version of high school popped into her mind. Maybe it didn’t have to be Alyssa that was at the center. Maybe she could sit in the middle when they spread their legs out on the bottom bunk. Maybe she could whisper things to Morgan that Alyssa wouldn’t understand. They could sit on top of the spider together; the climb hadn’t been so bad after all.