As I Descended
“So if she took the stuff tonight—”
Maria counted. “Wednesday is four days away. It might work.”
“It’s five days away, counting today. “
“So we’re screwed.” Maria leaned over the edge of the tub and put her head between her knees. It was all over before it had even begun.
“Unless she does it again right before the test,” Lily said slowly.
That sensation was prickling along Maria’s neck again. The feeling of being watched.
“She won’t.” Maria kept her head down, her eyes fixed on the floor. “We have practice every day this week. She never parties the night before a practice.”
“She might if you asked her to. Hasn’t she been pestering you to go with her into town?”
Delilah loved going into the decrepit little town next to campus. In Lennox, the teenagers wore “Jesus Saves” T-shirts, the storefronts had been boarded up for the past decade, and a redneck with a bottle tucked into a brown paper bag sat on every other stoop. Going into town and goofing off while the townies watched with hatred in their eyes had always been one of Delilah’s favorite activities, especially when she could do it with Maria.
Lately Delilah had been getting sentimental about school ending. She kept talking about how she was going to miss her friends so much. Even though, as far as Maria could tell, Delilah didn’t have any real friends.
That, Maria thought, was why she did oxy. Because it made her feel like she loved everyone.
Maria was pretty sure Delilah didn’t know how to love anyone at all, except maybe herself. She’d feel sorry for her . . . if she didn’t hate her so much.
“Tell her you’ll go out Tuesday night,” Lily said. “To that sketchy bar by the Kroger. They never card. I’m out of oxy until next month, so I’ll get some from Austin. Once Delilah sees you have it she won’t be able to say no.”
“Yes, she will. The night before a practice when the league championship is three days away? She will.”
“Well, if she does, then when she goes to the bathroom you put it in her drink.”
Maria’s head jerked up. “I what?”
Lily’s face was so calm it was scary. “You’re not doing anything to her she doesn’t do to herself every weekend already.”
Maria closed her eyes so she wouldn’t have to see that look on Lily’s face anymore.
This was crazy. It was beyond crazy—it was insane. Resenting your friend was one thing. Drugging her was something else.
“But—no,” Maria said. “I just can’t.”
Lily said something else, but Maria didn’t hear her.
There were rules. Laws. The world was set up a certain way.
Maria’s mother was a politician. All her life, Maria had been trained to be the model daughter. Speak when spoken to, keep your hair combed, and don’t break the rules. Or, if you do break the rules, don’t let anyone catch you.
The problem was, Maria never really understood the rules. She didn’t get why everyone cared about them so much. She just knew that if she acted like she did, most of the time she got what she wanted. If she studied long enough, she got an A. If she practiced hard enough, she won the game. If she worked hard to raise money for charity, her name moved up the ranks for the Kingsley Prize.
And most of the rules were pretty simple. You didn’t kick puppies. You didn’t say mean things to little kids.
You didn’t put things in people’s drinks.
“I can’t do that.” Maria spoke each word slowly, carefully. “I can’t just drug someone.”
“She’s drugging herself right now! If the test were tomorrow, the same thing would’ve happened, and you would’ve been fine with that.”
Maria’s head was spinning. She didn’t know if it was the beer, or Lily’s words, or that strange, otherworldly humming in her ear.
She wasn’t supposed to think this way.
But what Lily was saying made sense. Too much sense to ignore.
This might be the last chance she got. The only time she could beat Delilah.
Lily was right. She always was.
They weren’t doing anything to Delilah she wasn’t already doing to herself.
“Besides,” Lily went on, “this is what the spirits said would happen anyway, right?”
It was hard for Lily to stake her whole life on something an old piece of wood off eBay told her. But if that was what it took to make Maria take this seriously . . .
Maria was staring at the floor again. Lily laid a soft hand on her cheek and turned Maria to face her.
Lily swallowed, but she didn’t let her face change. She couldn’t let Maria see her uncertainty.
She couldn’t let herself feel bad about this, either. Guilt was a weak, useless feeling. Guilt got in the way.
Delilah didn’t go around feeling guilty for the things she’d done. She just enjoyed what she’d gotten from them.
“Look,” Lily said. “When you show it to her, she’ll probably take it. You won’t have to do anything except have a drink and pretend to be nice to her. Everything will work itself out from there.”
Maria stared into Lily’s eyes. Lily held her gaze.
She’d never been able to look away from Lily’s eyes for long.
Maria didn’t say anything for a long time.
Finally, she said, “I love you.”
“I love you too.”
Maria leaned her head on Lily’s shoulder. She kissed her, right at the place where her T-shirt collar met bare skin. Lily made a contented sound.
“Think about what it’s going to be like, Maria.” Lily’s voice was slow and rhythmic. Maria loved it when she said her name that way. “Not having to worry about her getting in our way. Then next year we’ll never have to see her again. It’ll be just the two of us, in California, away from all these awful people. We can do whatever we want.”
“Just the two of us,” Maria echoed.